NSG ‘priority one’, India calls off meeting with ambassadors

August 12th, 2008 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) The three-day assembly of Indian heads of mission scheduled to begin here from Aug 20 has been called off because the forthcoming meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) in Vienna is “priority one” right now for the foreign policy establishment. Heads of Indian missions from nearly 126 countries were to arrive in the capital in the next few days to take part in the unprecedented meeting.

This would have been the first time that ambassadors and high commissioners from all the Indian missions abroad were to assemble in New Delhi for a detailed interaction with the leadership on issues relating to the country’s foreign policy.

“All eyes are now on the forthcoming meeting of the NSG that is meeting on Aug 21 in Vienna,” an official told IANS.

“At the moment that is priority one on our list.”

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has had a tradition of holding interactive sessions with regional ambassadors and high commissioners. But the proposed meeting was supposed to be one where all the heads of mission were to come and interact with the leadership in New Delhi.

President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee were scheduled to address the visiting ambassadors at the major event that was to be held in Vigyan Bhawan here.

Officially, however, it is being said that the event has been put on hold. No fresh date has been announced.

The 45-member NSG meets in Vienna on Aug 21 to decide whether the existing ban to trade in civil nuclear energy with India should be lifted. India is not a member of the group but would need the waiver as it would help to put the India-US nuclear deal before the American Congress by September for its approval.

Sources said that though many of the NSG members were sceptical about making an exception for India and a small band were totally opposed to the idea, indications suggest that most have now come on board.

“There are still a few countries who are against the waiver, but most of the others have agreed to support it,” sources said.

Over the past few weeks, India has been engaged in hectic lobbying with most members of the NSG, particularly the sceptics, to enlist their support to the proposed waiver.

The decision of the 35-member board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to unanimously support the safeguards agreement that India signed with the Agency on Aug 1 has given India hope that the waiver could pass in the NSG despite reservations from some countries.

But unlike in the IAEA, where even a simple majority could take decisions, in the NSG the waiver for India has to be approved by consensus.

“This means a single country can block the whole thing and this is something that will continue to worry us till the waiver is given by the NSG,” an official said.

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