Draft ready, but some NSG members may still have objections

August 9th, 2008 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) Despite reaching an agreement on the draft that seeks a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) for India, the US might not be in a position to stop countries in the 45-member bloc from objecting to proposed concessions for New Delhi at the Aug 21 meeting in Vienna. Sources said after days of hectic consultations between the US, India and some other key members of the NSG, the America-initiated draft has been finalized.

Provisions to which India had strong objections were dropped.

“But this does not ensure a smooth ride at the forthcoming NSG meeting. Some members have very strong positions and they are bound to raise them at the meeting,” the sources said.

The final version of the draft is now being circulated among all the 45 members of the NSG to allow them to prepare for the forthcoming meeting.

The proposed waiver by the 45-member NSG would allow commerce in civil nuclear energy between India and the members of the group. Currently it is banned because NSG does not enter into commerce with a country like India that has not signed the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

India is not a member of the NSG and would have to rely on the US to ensure the waiver was accepted by consensus among the 45 members.

The earlier draft prepared by the Americans was not acceptable to the Indians since it contained provisions that talked about NSG members ensuring India accepted “full-scope safeguards” for its nuclear plants at the earliest.

India has gone through a separation plan that has allowed it to identify 14 of its nuclear facilities for civilian purposes and therefore, open to “full-scope safeguards” by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), while keeping six plants out of its purview. India says these would be used for its “strategic programme”.

On Aug 1, a safeguards agreement between India and the IAEA was unanimously approved by the 35-members of the agency. But even the most optimistic sections in the Indian establishment are aware that many countries in the NSG were still sceptical about the India-specific waiver and may continue to oppose it.

The IAEA safeguards and the NSG waiver are both crucial for India before the civil nuclear deal it plans to sign with the US could be put before the American Congress by September for its final approval.

As of now, 20 countries in the NSG are in favour of the waiver for India. Another 20 are sceptical. But despite their reluctance they might end up supporting the waiver. However, there are at least five countries - Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands and Switzerland - that are opposed to any concession for India.

In the past weeks South Block officials, senior diplomats and “special representatives” of the prime minister had been dispatched to the various capitals to engage with these countries and enlist their support at the NSG.

“We have done what we had to do with these countries but now we are depending on the US and hoping that the waiver will come through at the NSG meeting,” the sources said.

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