Getting NSG waiver for India may not be cakewalk

August 4th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Mehru Jaffer
Vienna, Aug 4 (IANS) If the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approval for the India-specific safeguards agreement came as a relief for New Delhi, winning a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) may not be a cakewalk, IANS learns. “I have reservations about the effects of the deal on non-proliferation, on the US-Israel policy towards Iran and on the other two non-NPT states of Israel and Pakistan,” an Austrian expert on IAEA affairs told IANS here on condition of anonymity.

The NSG, an informal body of 45 nations, controls the world’s nuclear trade and has been against selling nuclear technology to India because the country has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT).

India, having received a green signal from the UN nuclear watchdog, now requires a waiver from the NSG guidelines and approval of the US Congress to make its civil nuclear accord with the US operational.

Austria is a member of both the 35-member IAEA board of governors and the NSG. Austrian foreign ministry officials have already said that the unanimous approval by the IAEA board last Friday of an inspection plan for India’s civil nuclear reactors is not a precedent for similar action by the NSG.

Similar views are expressed by diplomats of many other countries, who however are not willing to go on record considering the sensitivity of the situation.

The NSG is expected to meet soon this month to review the Indian proposal and to see exactly how proliferation-free India’s nuclear activity is.

“If Pakistan gets the same treatment as India what is the NPT all about? It is, in my view, a total hypocrisy to pretend the (India-US nuclear) deal is all for development and energy for the poor. My most negative assessment is that the deal is a nail in the coffin of the Non-Aligned Movement and a death sentence on the NPT. Where do we stand on nuclear disarmament?” the Austrian expert, familiar with the NSG thinking, wondered.

India is a member of the IAEA board but not the NSG that sits on a set of strict laws in order to prevent proliferation.

However, western diplomats point out that before 2005 the US, a founder member of the NSG, had led the loudest opposition against doing nuclear business with India.

Then President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the nuclear deal in July 2005 and ever since the US has been lobbying other NSG members to open nuclear technology and fuel market to India.

The US is working overtime now to convince fellow NSG members skeptical over India’s nuclear ambitions that its civil nuclear cooperation deal with the country is a historic agreement.

An American official said that after the Aug 1 approval by the IAEA, India has at last entered the nonproliferation mainstream after three decades.

“By accepting IAEA safeguards inspections for its civilian nuclear facilities, India no longer stands outside the global non-proliferation. Through this initiative India enters the international mainstream, thereby strengthening the regime that continues to play a vital role in enhancing international security and stability,” the official told IANS.

American officials continue to lobby select NSG members like Austria, Ireland and Switzerland to make a concession for a “nuclear responsible” country like India.

The US points out India’s promise to separate its civilian facilities and programmes will allow other nations to cooperate with India’s civilian facilities to expand energy production. Those facilities will be under IAEA safeguards and prevent diversion of technology and materials to India’s military programme.

Optimists add that the US might not have taken India’s nuclear case to the IAEA board before it had made sure that the NSG and the US Congress would also approve the nuclear deal.

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