Trust vote over, India goes on NSG charm offensive

July 23rd, 2008 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) With the trust vote behind it, the Manmohan Singh government is going all out to win the support of the IAEA board and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) countries, which are expected to decide soon on giving India a passport to global trade in nuclear fuel and technologies. The government is planning to deploy three of its ministers and top-ranking envoys with decades of experience in international diplomacy on the ‘charm NSG’ mission, an official source said.

These emissaries will travel to capitals of key NSG countries, particularly non-committal ones like China and those who are wedded to a strong non-proliferation agenda like Ireland, Austria and Norway.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy and former foreign secretary Shyam Saran left for Dublin within hours of the government winning the trust vote Tuesday night. Ireland is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors and the NSG and is known for its hawkish stance on non-proliferation issues.

Later this week, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma will travel to South Africa, which gave up its nuclear programme to join the NPT (nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty) in the 1990s, to win the support of Africa’s most influential country in the NSG.

Sharma is already working on influential NSG countries like Australia and New Zealand whose ministers are attending the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) ministerial meeting in Singapore.

Besides Sharma and Saran, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Middle East Chinmaya Gharekhan are among those who will travel to various NSG countries.

While Chavan will go to Beijing, which has yet to take a position on the nuclear deal, Menon may go to Washington, an official source said.

India is likely to fine-tune details of its NSG strategy when US Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns comes here next month. Under the July 18, 2005 joint statement, the US is committed to getting India an exemption from the NSG for the resumption of global nuclear commerce. India has made it clear that it is keen on a clean, unconditional waiver from the NSG.

Over 20 NSG countries of the NSG are also members of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA secretariat will circulate the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement to all its members Friday before the board of governors to take a decision on approving the safeguards pact Aug 1 in Vienna.

Pakistan, a member of the IAEA board, has already raised objections to the proposed safeguards agreement that India has sought with the UN nuclear watchdog. India has therefore stepped up its diplomatic efforts to ensure that Pakistan and other sceptics like Ireland do not force voting in the IAEA on the India-specific safeguards pact.

The voting in the IAEA, which only happens rarely, the last one being the vote on the Iranian nuclear programme two years ago, may embolden sceptics in the NSG to air their opposition. That’s why India wants to doubly ensure that the board approves the safeguards pact unanimously.

With barely two months to go before the US Congress holds its last session ahead of the November presidential elections, India needs to win a waiver from the NSG over the next one month. The US Congress is required to endorse the 123 India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement before the two countries can sign it to resume global nuclear trade between them.

As the 45-member NSG works by consensus, the position of every participating government in the global cartel that controls the flow of nuclear technologies and fuel matter as even one nay-sayer can derail India’s global civil nuclear ambitions.

Related Stories

    Posted in Uncategorized |