Critics slam new US draft on India waiver

September 4th, 2008 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 4 (IANS) In another bid to derail the India-US civil nuclear deal, a non-proliferation lobby has asked the nuclear suppliers to reject a revised US proposal for a waiver saying it had made only a couple of cosmetic changes.”The revised US proposal does not incorporate any meaningful adjustments or concessions and is essentially the same as the earlier draft proposal,” Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association (ACA) said in a media note released ahead of the Sep 4-5 meeting of the nuclear cartel in Vienna.

A copy of the revised US proposal to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to exempt India from its nuclear trade restrictions, obtained by the ACA, showed it had made only a couple of cosmetic changes, said Kimball, who has been at the forefront of opposition to the deal in the US.

The NSG had last month failed to reach a consensus on giving India a “clean waiver” from its guidelines in the face of objections from some countries. It is meeting again Thursday and Friday to consider a revised US draft that meets their concerns and is yet acceptable to India.

At least six NSG members - Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland - are reported to be opposed to a “clean waiver” for India as they fear it will impact adversely on the non-proliferation regime.

Apparently, New Delhi and Washington expect that the 15 plus states who are seeking meaningful restrictions and conditions and a regular review mechanism on nuclear trade with India to be satisfied with a “statement from the chair” to substitute for a rationale NSG policy on key issues, Kimball said.

One of the “two cosmetic adjustments” in the revised draft, according to the ACA, is a new paragraph that says all governments participating in the NSG shall inform each other on what bilateral cooperation they are pursuing with India after the exemption is approved.

“This is being presented as an alternative to several proposals from NSG states for a regular review mechanism for nuclear trade with India,” he said.

“This would be mildly useful ahead of an NSG decision, but adds nothing to what the NSG is already authorised to do and would do nothing to help hold India accountable to non-proliferation and disarmament commitments,” Kimball said.

Another new paragraph, according to ACA says participating governments can call an extraordinary consultation within the NSG “if circumstances have arisen which require consultations”.

“This is being pitched as a response to a possible Indian nuclear test,” Kimball said. “But in reality, this doesn’t do anything more than what is already in the NSG guidelines (paragraph 16) that allow for a special meeting of NSG states in the event of extraordinary events, including a nuclear test.”

Given that the Indian government has shown so little flexibility and given that the revised proposal was distributed only days before the next NSG meeting, it is highly unlikely the NSG will reach a decision this week, he said.

Any India-specific exemption from NSG guidelines would erode the credibility of NSG efforts to ensure that access to peaceful nuclear trade and technology is available only to those states that meet global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament standards, Kimball said.

“Contrary to the Orwellian claims of its proponents, the deal would not bring India into the non-proliferation mainstream,” he said.

Asking the NSG to flatly reject the new US proposal as “unsound and irresponsible”, Kimball said to be effective, NSG guidelines must establish clear and unambiguous terms and conditions for the initiation and possible termination of nuclear trade.

ACA also circulated an Aug 5 letter from Howard Berman, Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging “the president should withhold support from any proposed exemption from India in the NSG guidelines that is not fully consistent with the Hyde Act.”

The letter warned Rice that “any effort to consider the (US-Indian nuclear cooperation) agreement outside of the requirements of current law will be impossible if the administration accepts an NSG exemption that fails to include the Hyde Act conditions”.

The Bush administration has claimed that the implementing 123 agreement initialled last year is fully consistent with the contentious Hyde Act, the US enabling law passed in December 2006.

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