India sends senior diplomats to sceptics in NSG

August 9th, 2008 - 9:48 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) India has dispatched Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and external affairs ministry secretary (economic relations) Hardeep Singh Puri to Switzerland and New Zealand respectively to lobby with the two countries’ leaderships and enlist their support for a waiver at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). The 45-member NSG is scheduled meet in Vienna Aug 21-22 to discuss whether its existing ban on trade in civil nuclear energy with India should be lifted.

The NSG’s guidelines prevent trade in civil nuclear energy with countries like India that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A number of senior Indian leaders and officials have already visited some of the key NSG member countries to enlist their support for a waiver for India during the forthcoming meeting of the Group.

Switzerland and New Zealand, along with Austria, Ireland and the Netherlands, are among the five “toughest” NSG members that are opposed to any concessions for India.

While “special representatives” of the prime minister have already engaged with three of them, an attempt is now being made to convince the leaders in Switzerland and New Zealand to support the waiver for India.

There are also indications that the NSG would have to meet twice to take a final view on the proposed waiver. After the meet scheduled for Aug 21 in Vienna, there could be yet another meeting in early September - though it was not clear whether the venue of the meeting would be in Vienna or elsewhere.

“It looks like there will be a second meeting of the NSG. Some countries have strong sensitivities on nuclear non-proliferation issues and we are working to address these concerns,” a senior official, privy to the government’s nuclear diplomacy, told IANS here Saturday.

“We are not into semantic quibbles. We are looking for clean exemption and we are hopeful of getting it,” the official said when asked about India’s insistence on getting clean and unconditional exemption from the NSG.

India is not a member of the NSG.

He also confirmed that issues in the draft text of the exemption the US is seeking for India in the NSG have been resolved after removing a contentious paragraph about full-scope safeguards which could have a bearing on India’s strategic programme.

“India’s strategic programme is outside the ambit of the (India-US) civil nuclear deal. The world knows our position on the NPT and CTBT,” he explained.

“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 official said.

The US has circulated the draft to the NSG countries seeking an amendment in the guidelines of the nuclear cartel in favour of restoring global nuclear commerce with India.

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will come here Aug 18, three days ahead of the NSG meeting, to exchange notes with his Indian interlocutors on the NSG process.

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