From Tehran to Beijing, India scales up nuclear diplomacy

July 30th, 2008 - 6:09 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 30 (IANS) With just two days to go for the UN nuclear watchdog meeting in Vienna, India has sought support for its civil nuclear deal with US from China and those NAM countries that are members of the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee met the Algerian foreign minister in Tehran Tuesday night and sought its support for the India-specific safeguards agreement which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board will take up for approval in Vienna Aug 1. Algeria is a member of the IAEA board.

Mukherjee also met foreign ministers of Egypt and Ghana, which are members of the IAEA.

He held talks with the foreign ministers of Cyprus and Belarus, which are members of the 45-nation NSG, on the sidelines of the 15th ministerial meet of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) taking place in Tehran.

The response from those IAEA members and NSG countries that India has contacted has been positive, an official source said here.

There are some countries which have also formally conveyed their support, said the source but declined to name them.

The IAEA board’s approval of India’s safeguards pact will clear the way for a consideration by the NSG which is likely to meet in the first half of August to decide on changing its guidelines to favour global nuclear commerce with India.

With the clock ticking away, India and the US have also exchanged drafts of the “clean” exemption that Washington plans to circulate to the NSG.

India is keen to ensure that the draft is silent on nuclear testing and does not contain any extra conditions that are outside the July 18, 2005, India-US joint statement.

With China keeping its cards close to its chest, India has also stepped up lobbying to seek Beijing’s crucial support in the NSG.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan Tuesday met Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo in Beijing and handed over letters from Manmohan Singh to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao requesting China’s support in the NSG.

Beijing has said it is studying the India-specific IAEA safeguards agreement and will make up its mind soon. India is, however, hopeful that given its improving ties with China, Beijing will not stand in its way in the NSG.

Chavan is among a handful of ministers and diplomats who have fanned out to different countries that are members of the IAEA and the NSG in a concerted effort to garner their support for the India-US nuclear deal. The accord seeks to reopen the doors of global civil nuclear commerce for New Delhi after a gap of three decades.

Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal is currently visiting Sweden and Finland, which are NSG members known for their strong anti-proliferation agenda.

Before he left for Sweden last Saturday, Sibal told IANS he was hopeful the nuclear deal would be wrapped up by September.

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