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No decision on NSG waiver

india Updated: Aug 23, 2008 10:47 IST
Amit Baruah
Amit Baruah
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

It’s going to take a while longer. That was the message from Vienna on Friday, where a two-day Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting ended without a decision on India being able to source nuclear materials from members of the 45-country club.

Western diplomats, however, told the Hindustan Times that the outlook was good for India and the atmosphere during the two days of meetings was "not poisonous".

The conditions
All nuclear trade will end if India tests a nuclear device again.
India must agree to additional protocol with IAEA, meaning more access to the atomic watchdog.
No transfer of uranium-enrichment technologies.
Termination clause if India walks out of safeguards accord with IAEA.

The NSG will now meet on September 4 and 5 to take a final call on a waiver for India.

“India will get its exemption. But there will have to be some fine-tuning of the draft to take on board the concerns of others,” an Indian official said after the meeting.

The NSG said in a terse, four-line statement, “Participating governments exchanged views in a constructive manner, and agreed to meet again in the near future to continue their deliberations.”

John Rood, the US acting undersecretary of state for arms control, told reporters in Vienna that he remained very optimistic about getting the nuclear deal through the NSG.

In a radio interview, New Zealand’s Disarmament Minister Phil Goff spilled the beans that eight countries — his own, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark — were working in concert to make changes to the Amercian “waiver” draft.

The octet was trying to find a way of accommodating the desires of the Indian and American governments while ensuring that any exemption granted would be supportive of non-proliferation rather than working in the opposite direction, Goff said.

These countries were pushing to end all nuclear cooperation with India should it test a nuclear device again, restrict the supply of uranium-enrichment technologies and build a review clause into any waiver document.

All this is similar to the provisions of the Hyde Act, an enabling legislation passed by the US Congress in 2006, which permits Washington to engage in nuclear commerce with India.

Also, they wanted a termination clause if India opted out of the August 1 safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and return all material secured on account of the NSG waiver.

The Associated Press news agency, meanwhile, reported from Vienna that the U.S. was expected to present a revised proposal to exempt India from NSG rules by the beginning of next week.

In Mumbai, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher prepared the ground for changes in the draft text circulated by Washington to grant India exemption from NSG guidelines.

“I don’t want to lie to you...I can’t really lie. There might be some changes that we could accept. But we are pushing for a clean text,” Boucher said at a press briefing.

“My colleagues in the (United) States and New Delhi are bringing all the pieces together. All the commitments are there; we’re working towards fulfilling them,” said Boucher.

“We can’t anticipate any of the changes, but won’t put down anything that makes it harder to achieve an agreement either,” Boucher took the view.

The American official felt that most countries he had interacted with were positive towards India. “They understand the benefits of co-operation with India…We are trying to explain these benefits and the nuances of the deal in our meetings with nuclear suppliers, to answer their questions and figure out how to make this happen.”

With inputs from Purva Mehra in Mumbai