With vote won, India and US fast-track n-deal diplomacy (Roundup)

July 23rd, 2008 - 9:48 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi/Washington, July 23 (IANS) A day after the government won the trust vote, India and the US Wednesday fast-tracked the nuclear deal, with New Delhi sending emissaries to key NSG countries and Washington planning an NSG meeting early next month so that the deal can be wrapped up by September. “We will like the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) meeting to take place within a week or 10 days after the approval (of the India-specific safeguards pact) by the IAEA board,” US ambassador David C. Mulford told reporters in New Delhi in a telephonic interaction from Ohio.

The 35-member IAEA board of governors is expected to meet August 1 to approve the safeguards pact that assures India uninterrupted fuel supplies for the lifetime of its reactors and the right to take corrective action in case of disruption in foreign-sourced fuel.

“We feel it’s important to address their concerns (of NSG countries) immediately. If it is necessary to have a second meeting of the NSG, we will do so that we can present it (123 agreement) to the US Congress in early days of September,” he said.

“The final draft of the proposed NSG exemption has not been circulated yet. But it will be circulated soon,” he said while indicating that the US was going all out to wrap up the nuclear deal by September before the Congress adjourns ahead of the November presidential elections.

The Indian 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 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group and is known for its hawkish stance on non-proliferation issues.

Nalin Surie, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, has left to woo Eastern and Central European countries, most of whom are members of the NSG.

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.

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. Sibal will travel to Scandinavian countries which have strong non-proliferation lobby.

The US envoy, on its part, underlined that the US was hopeful that India would get “a clean exemption” from the NSG.

“We want a consensus in NSG without conditions. There is a very good chance we will be able to move with a clean exemption,” he said.

“We want a clean exemption that is not laden with a lot of details which we believe are not in the IAEA safeguards pact and the 123 agreement,” he said when asked whether India can hope to get clean and unconditional exemption from the NSG.

“The Congress is a sovereign body can meet very quickly if it deems unnecessary. We hope we will be able to get there,” he replied when asked whether Washington was confident of wrapping up the nuclear deal in time in view of the looming US presidential elections.

Alluding to a telephonic conversation between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week, the US envoy underlined that it was a “friendly” talk about how India and the US can move on to the next steps in concluding the nuclear deal.

“She (Rice) is travelling. She will be meeting with leaders of Australia and New Zealand,” he said. Australia and New Zealand are among those members of the NSG who have reservations about some aspects of the nuclear deal and its implications for the global non-proliferation order.

The US envoy, however, sounded confident about winning over sceptics in the NSG and was hopeful that China will also take a “positive view” of it in the nuclear cartel that operates by consensus.

Mulford also said that the US would speak to Pakistan which is understood to be trying to block consensus in the IAEA board over the India-specific safeguards pact and try to make it “see things in the right light.”

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