NSG members start deliberations on Indian waiver

August 21st, 2008 - 3:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Vienna, Aug 21 (IANS) The 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) began their two-day meeting here Thursday to decide whether its existing ban should be lifted to allow business in civil nuclear energy with India.India has not signed the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and, therefore, under the NSG’s existing guidelines, does not qualify to be a trading partner. But its excellent track record on non-proliferation, commitment to global disarmament, its strong and vibrant democracy and its booming economy have brought many members of the NSG to favour the lifting of the ban for India.

A decision from the NSG to lift the ban is crucial for India as it will complete yet another important step towards formalizing the Indo-US nuclear deal for which a final nod of the American Congress is needed.

But the NSG takes all decisions through consensus and therefore, all the 45 members will have to agree to lifting the existing ban for India.

The two-day meeting of the NSG that controls all international trade in nuclear commerce will break at 11 a.m. to attend a presentation by India at a second venue at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters.

The NSG will resume its own meeting across the road at Japan’s permanent mission to the IAEA after the briefing by India and give its verdict late on Friday.

A decision in favour of India will allow the country access to technology from the US and other nations with nuclear material to sell.

Since India is not a member of the NSG a high powered Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Shyam Saran sent out invitations to all the 45 NSG members to attend a special briefing on Thursday morning when India will once again recall its excellent non-proliferation record in the past and answer other questions raised by NSG members.

India hopes that the NSG will consider every aspect of the nuclear deal and the merits of including India in the global non-proliferation regime before it decides to amend its guidelines.

The Indian delegation arrived in Vienna Wednesday on the eve of the NSG meet and spent the day lobbying privately and mostly, bilaterally.

The others in the Indian delegation include Dr R B Grover, director, Strategic Planning Group of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Venkatesh Varma from the Indian mission in Geneva and Saurabh Kumar, India’s ambassador to Vienna.

Indian officials told IANS that the foreign secretary had briefed Germany, which at present heads the NSG, and later held meetings with representatives of South Africa and Hungary - the past and future heads of the Group behind closed doors.

The Indian delegation also held meetings with Brazil and some of the other members of the NSG that have expressed concerns about the effect of the Group’s waiver to India will have on international non-proliferation issues.

Over a plastic cup of coffee from an automatic machine, Menon talked to journalists briefly as he waited outside an IAEA conference room Wednesday evening minutes before he briefed Germany.

Menon said he had spent the day meeting with “everyone”. Without elaborating or being specific he added that “all” the meetings went off well.

“I don’t want to say anything yet,” Menon said about the mood of NSG members he had met on Wednesday.”I will tell you everything once the meeting is over on Friday evening,” Menon told IANS.

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