Non-consensus NSG shifts waiver for September
With the United States’ inability to put all the members of Nuclear Suppliers Group countries on its draft line seeking “clean and unconditional” trade exemption for India and thus paving the way for operationalising Indo-US nuclear deal, the two-day Vienna meeting of NSG nations ended inconclusively on Friday. The 45-member NSG nations, which take decision by consensus, will meet again on September 4 for another two-day session to discuss on the amended draft that US will fetch by next session.
The US on Friday assured the NSG nations that it was confident to come up with amended draft waiver for India that would respect both the non-proliferation concerns expressed by members as well as the red lines laid down by New Delhi.
The dates were informally agreed to but not mentioned in the NSG communiqué issued after concluding the meeting probably because US wanted to seek India’s approval to any alteration in language before it comes again to Vienna.
Bush administration has said India will have to accept changes in the text of the waiver agreement, however, it also assured that that US will not allow any changes that will obstruct the process for the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.
Gauging the gravity of the situation, foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon is set to fly directly from Vienna to Washington to discuss the objections came up in the NSG meeting.
Earlier on Friday, consensus among NSGs could not be reached as some of the members proposed stricter conditions for lifting a global ban on fuel and technology export to India. They asked US to incorporate some provisions of America’s Hyde Act into the document seeking a waiver for India from the global rules for nuclear commerce.
The objections mainly raised by a group of seven NSG members comprising Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland and Norway who are against the India waiver, as sources said, not because they are opposed to India, but because of fears that such an exemption will weaken the global non-proliferation regime.
NSG members like China, Germany and Japan supported the idea of a waiver for India but simultaneously proposed, too, amendments should be introduced in the text of the draft. France, Britain, Russia, Canada, Brazil and South Africa were among the supporters of the US-backed proposal.
A contentious issue raised whether to incorporate a review provision in the proposed guidelines waiver for India. Whereas some countries suggested having some kind of monitoring mechanism to assess the extent to which India is abiding by its non-proliferation commitments, the others favoured making their own national assessments rather than following NSG-perception on Indian compliance.
However, it was satisfactory news for India who is reluctant to sign CTBT and NPT, as an NSG diplomat said no member seriously expected India to sign the CTBT as a precondition for the exemption.
The moot question was instead: “How to deal with the new situation which would be created, if India tests again.” On such looming situations, some members wanted to terminate nuclear cooperation immediately, while others pressed for a more explicit consultation process going beyond that which was already envisage in paragraph 16 of the guidelines.
The immediate future of the Indo-US nuclear deal now hangs on the September 4-5 meeting of the NSG, but the demanding question raises doubts whether US would capable enough to be abided by its commitment to table Indo-US nuclear bill at the Congress by September 8 to complete the necessary legislation for operationalising the deal before September 26, when Congress adjourns for the US presidential polls.
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