A revised US proposal for lifting a global ban on nuclear trade with India does not go far enough to defuse fears the move could shred non-proliferation standards, diplomats said on Sunday.
Washington sent a fresh draft plan to fellow members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on Saturday after many in the 45-nation NSG demanded conditions for waiving their rules to deal with a nation that is outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The US needs an unprecedented NSG exemption to help seal its 2005 civilian nuclear energy deal with India. But an attempt to push through a waiver was blocked at an August 21-22 NSG meeting.
Six nations, backed by at least 15 more in the cartel, who must decide unanimously, demanded amendments to ensure that Indian access to nuclear markets would not indirectly benefit its atomic bomb programme. But diplomats said the changes were cosmetic in the face of Indian insistence on a “clean” exemption and this made it unlikely a follow-up NSG conclave set for Thursday and Friday could agree a solution.
Without NSG action in early September, the US Congress may run out of time for final ratification of the deal before it adjourns at the end of the month for autumn elections. That would leave the deal in indefinite limbo.
“Agreement looks unlikely this week. The red lines of India and concerned NSG members remain too far apart. India will have to give more,” said one diplomat, on conditions of anonimity, as the bloc’s deliberations are confidential.
The deal is controversial as India has shunned the NPT that commits members to nuclear disarmament, and a test ban treaty after developing atom bombs with Western technology imported for peaceful nuclear energy. Washington and some allies assert it will shift the world’s largest democracy toward the non-proliferation mainstream and fight global warming by fostering use of low-polluting nuclear energy in developing economies.
Diplomats said “like-minded” NSG states remained set on conditions including a trade halt if India tests a bomb again, transfers of fuel-enrichment or reprocessing technology that could be replicated for bomb making, and periodic waiver reviews.
“(Our) red lines are sacrosanct and if these are not met we can’t endorse the agreement,” India’s national security adviser M.K. Narayanan told television channel CNN IBN. But Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association think-tank wrote in a commentary: “The proposal makes no substantive concessions and is essentially the same as the earlier (one). This is insulting, irresponsible and should be flatly rejected,” he said.