Six NSG members hold out against clean waiver for India

September 1st, 2008 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Vienna, Sep 1 (IANS) Six countries in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group have remained opposed to a “clean waiver” to India ahead of its meeting here this week and some of them have said they were under pressure to reach a “constructive conclusion” to allow global nuclear commerce with New Delhi.“We are under pressure to agree to an acceptable compromise at the Sep 4-5 meeting,” a western diplomat, whose country is one of the six NSG members opposed to a ‘clean waiver’, told IANS here Monday.

The six countries - Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland - made it clear that changes in the new draft for waiver were “minimal” and “cosmetic” and fail to address their concerns on non-proliferation.

They met Monday to decide whether they can take a common position to register their concerns on the new draft the US has circulated and wanted to be passed at the NSG meeting.

“My government received the revised draft from the US last Saturday. There was no business over the weekend. The government had its first look at the draft on Monday morning,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat added that the draft has the government’s “full attention” at the moment but it was still “unsure” over an unconditional waiver.

When the 45-member NSG met here last month, the member countries were unable to decide on the India-specific waiver without first bringing in provisions that would specify that all trade with India would end if it conducted further nuclear tests.

After its series of nuclear tests in May 1998, India has announced a voluntary moratorium on testing. But it has so far not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that prevents countries from conducting further nuclear tests. Nor has it signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

India needs all the NSG members to agree to the “waiver” as all decisions in the Group are taken by consensus.

An Austrian diplomat studying the draft described the changes in the new draft as “minimal”.

“This is too important an issue for us to be pressured into taking a quick decision,” he said.

Diplomats asking not to be quoted by name or country said that hectic consultations among NSG members continued all Monday and some like-minded countries had an informal meeting in the afternoon.

The process was described as “fluid” three days before the NSG meet.

“We are not being difficult. We are not hardliners. We consider our nonproliferation concerns very legitimate. We respect and admire the steps taken by India in the past over nonproliferation but we are concerned about the future,” yet another western diplomat said.

The NSG waiver is essential for India so that the nuclear deal it plans to sign with the US can be put before the American Congress by this month for its final approval.

Though the six countries have taken the lead against a “clean waiver” for India, there are about 20 others that also have their reservations on granting the special concession to New Delhi without getting any firm commitment from it.

India has made it clear that it will not allow any “prescriptive” conditions in the waiver.

The new draft that the US has prepared was approved by India only after days of negotiations and consultation to ensure that its language does not contain anything that can be construed as interfering with the country’s sovereign rights.

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