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Nuclear dawn for India at NSG?

At the end of day one of the second round of NSG meet, as many as 20 nations spoke out in support of the exemption draft circulated by the US after taking India’s consent, reports Amit Baruah. FAQs related with Indo-US N-deal

world Updated: Sep 05, 2008 15:50 IST
Amit Baruah

India’s efforts to secure a waiver to engage in civil nuclear commerce with the rest of the world brightened at the end of day one of the second round of Nuclear Supplier Group consultations in Vienna.

A top Indian official told the Hindustan Times that as many as 20 countries spoke out in the morning session in support of the exemption draft circulated by the United States after taking India’s consent.

With charges flying thick and fast on the civil nuclear deal back home in India, the US exerted considerable pressure on NSG holdouts to push a waiver through the exclusive nuclear club that controls global atomic trade.

“We have made progress,” a Canadian diplomat said at the end of Thursday’s sessions. Meetings continued through the day, in small and large groups, to thrash out the differences.

“There have been minor changes in the draft circulated by the US today,” another diplomat said. Driblets of information emerging after the meeting suggested a positive outcome for India.

In Delhi, the Left and the BJP demanded PM Manmohan Singh’s resignation and the immediate convening of Parliament. But the government maintained that the “secret letter” published by The Washington Post doesn’t alter India’s position.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said New Delhi reserved the right to conduct a nuke test and was not bound by any pronouncements other than the 123 Agreement. He added that the government cannot go “beyond” its commitment to Parliament on the India-US nuclear deal.

The 45-national Nuclear Suppliers’ Group is meeting in Vienna to decide on a US proposal waiving rules preventing India from conducting civilian-use nuclear trade with members of this elite group.

The group held a three-and-a-half-hour meeting in the morning, before going into recess to allow the Americans to consult other delegations on possible textual changes in the revised waiver draft. It then convened again at 8.30 pm IST. US Under Secretary of State William Burns, who is leading the American delegation, sounded hopeful that the NSG would, after all had been said and done, alter the rules of the nuclear game for India.

"The US believes firmly that the step, which we are considering for India will strengthen non-proliferation and welcome one of the world's largest economies… more fully into the global fold," Burns said in a statement.

"I believe we are making steady progress in this process and that we will continue to make progress," he said.

"And, while a number of representatives here have raised important questions that need to be addressed, our discussions have been constructive and clearly aimed at reaching an early consensus," the senior American official said.

According to him, the NSG had been presented with a historic opportunity to end more than three decades of India's isolation from nuclear regimes, which warranted the extraordinary efforts that were being made.

A text of the revised draft, now made public, reveals that some minor adjustments have been made but that the significant body of the text still stands.

Without mentioning a fresh nuclear test by India, the new language suggests that if one or more governments believe that "circumstances have arisen which require consultations", participating governments would act according to paragraph 16 of NSG guidelines.

Paragraph 16, in turn, speaks of an NSG meeting to consider action against a country that might have exploded a nuclear bomb, or had illegally terminated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

A consultative mechanism with India has also been introduced, which requests the NSG chairman to "confer and consult" with New Delhi and keep the plenary informed of these consultations.

Yet another clause "invited" participating governments to share information, including about their bilateral (civil nuclear cooperation) agreements with India.

Indian officials led by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon were not present at the meeting, but were informed of the deliberations after the NSG meeting broke for an afternoon recess.