India banking on ‘Big 4′ ahead of NSG meet

September 3rd, 2008 - 3:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Vienna/New Delhi/Washington, Sep 3 (IANS) With sceptics unconvinced about a clean waiver ahead of the NSG’s meeting Thursday, India is banking on the “Big 4″ in the nuclear cartel - US, Britain, France and Russia - to use their clout to ensure an exemption that does not contain deal-breaking conditions like testing. India is also hopeful that the second two-day India-specific meeting of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Vienna will be a final one.

“We are hopeful that this meeting will be decisive. We are not expecting another meeting that could dim chances of the deal going through this year,” a highly-placed source, privy to the government’s thinking on the nuclear deal, told IANS in New Delhi.

“We are not part of the NSG. But we are confident that the ‘Big 4′ will be able to convince sceptics about the merits of bringing India inside the non-proliferation tent,” the source said speaking on condition of anonymity.

The NSG members will discuss a revised draft, prepared by the US in close consultation with India.

The revised draft is expected to reflect some of the concerns of NSG sceptics without including onerous prescriptive provisions like testing, periodic review of India’s compliance and curbing export of reprocessing and enrichment technologies that could prove to be a deal-breaker with India.

Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon will reach Vienna later Wedenesday. He will be joined by R.B. Grover from the Department of Atomic Energy and Venkatesh Varma from India’s mission in Geneva in talks with various delegations.

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, Washington’s pointsman on the nuclear deal, will be joined by acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Rood, who had represented Washington at the Aug 21-22 NSG meeting that ended inconclusively without any decision on the India waiver.

Indian and US officials are expected to highlight India’s impeccable non-proliferation record and its growing need for clean energy to convince the doubters that the waiver for India would strengthen the global non-proliferation regime.

If the NSG approves by consensus a clean exemption for India at the end of its meeting Friday, it will be a historic moment that will end India’s 34-year nuclear isolation by permitting resumption of global trade with New Delhi in nuclear fuel and know-how.

The US, Russia, France and Britain were the first to declare unambiguous support for the nuclear deal and have consistently batted for the India deal in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and NSG.

Russia and France have separately finalised bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreements with India and are waiting for the NSG’s approval before they can sign them.

Both countries stand to gain business worth billions of dollars in civil nuclear technology after the NSG’s nod.

Despite China’s continuing ambivalence on the India-US nuclear deal, which was reflected in a scathing article in People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, New Delhi is hopeful that Beijing will not play spoiler in the NSG due to expanding political and economic ties between the two countries.

Austria, New Zealand and Ireland head the list of NSG sceptics with serious reservations about some aspects of the nuclear deal which they suspect can impact adversely on the existing global non-proliferation regime.

The Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden and Finland), the Netherlands and Switzerland are also opposing the deal due to strong domestic sensitivity on the nuclear issue.

Six countries opposed to a “clean waiver” for India have complained that they were under pressure to seek a compromise at NSG’s Sep 4-5 meeting.

“We are under pressure to agree to an acceptable compromise at the September 4-5 meeting,” a diplomat from one of the six countries opposed to a “clean waiver” for India said in Vienna on condition of anonymity.

However, with the clock ticking away for the approval of the India-US deal by the US Congress, which convenes Sep 8 for the last session before the Nov 8 presidential elections, there is very little likelihood of another NSG meeting on the issue.

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