A ‘gang’ of countries stands between India and NSG waiver

August 6th, 2008 - 1:54 pm ICT by IANS  

By Mehru Jaffer
Vienna, Aug 6 (IANS) Days before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meets here to consider selling nuclear fuel and technology to India, those for the deal seem to be in a majority even as there is said to be a “gang” of countries who could put a spanner in New Delhi’s hopes. The NSG is expected to meet in Vienna Aug 21 to waive a trade ban with India, although neither the date nor the venue have been officially confirmed. Emotions are running high over the issue.

Some countries fear that a “clean and unconditional” waiver allowing India to buy nuclear fuel and technology from the NSG after a boycott of more than three decades may smack of a lack of commitment on their part to nuclear disarmament.

Other members are indignant that nuclear states like the US do not lead by example and have not fulfilled their obligation to disarm and eliminate the nuclear arms they have stockpiled.

Since India is not a member, it is left to the US to tackle the temper tantrums within the NSG. The NSG controls the world’s nuclear export and through guidelines adopted by consensus, strictly monitors non-proliferation and is against truck with countries that have not signed the non proliferation treaty (NPT).

The NSG can exempt India only by consensus and therefore the vote of each of the 45 members is essential.

The NSG is said to simultaneously battle fear, anger, disappointment and optimism - although behind closed doors where member countries are united over their mandate to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons without hindering international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field.

Now the 45 member nations of the NSG are said to be reviewing a formal request made by the US outlining the benefits of opening its doors to nuclear trade with India.

“There are very plausible arguments on both sides. Those for the deal seem to be in a majority. But there is also a mutually encouraging ‘gang’ of countries that is very worried about proliferation and about disarmament…” an expert in nuclear law familiar with the NSG thinking told IANS.

Despite dissent, members may also discuss a “possible” India specific relationship on civilian nuclear cooperation that will allow the NSG to do business with India without giving the impression that its nuclear weapon members will never disarm.

The NSG is a voluntary group without a permanent office or a spokesperson.

It first met in 1975 after India first tested a nuclear device.

India does not sign the NPT as the country says that the treaty discriminates between nuclear weapons states and non nuclear weapon states. Along with Israel and Pakistan, India is often referred to as D3, or a de facto nuclear weapon state.

The US is a founder member of the NSG and in a reversal of policy now is eager to supply fuel and nuclear technology to India.

Its proposed deal with India, the US points out, will open India’s civilian reactors to international inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The US has praised to the NSG India’s record of not spreading nuclear technology, and pointed out that safeguards are built into its deal with India.

India imports about 75 percent of its oil, and the government argues that the country needs the nuclear deal to power its financial growth and lift hundreds of millions out of poverty.

Once India’s quest for civilian nuclear cooperation is accepted unanimously by the NSG, the deal will be forwarded to the US Senate for approval before it is implemented.

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