Critics mobilise NGOs to derail n-deal at NSG

August 16th, 2008 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, Aug 16 (IANS) Non-proliferation hawks have roped in “more than 150 experts and NGOs from 24 countries” to derail the India-US civil nuclear deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting next week. In a letter Friday to the foreign ministers of the 45 NSG member states, the experts urged the cartel that controls world nuclear trade to avoid a “non-proliferation disaster” by rejecting a US proposal to give India a waiver from its rules.

“India’s commitments under the current terms of the proposed arrangement do not justify making far-reaching exceptions to international non-proliferation rules and norms,” wrote the critics going by the name of “Abolition 2000 US-India Deal Working Group.”

The appeal is part of a global NGO campaign to influence governments’ views about the controversial nuclear trade proposal, according to Washington based Arms Control Association spearheading the group with Tokyo based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre.

The NSG will convene on Aug 21-22 in Vienna to discuss a US proposal to give India a waiver from its rules governing trade with states that have not signed the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NSG waiver will clear the second major hurdle before the nuclear deal goes to the US Congress for ratification. The UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has already approved an India specific safeguards agreement for India’s civilian nuclear reactors.

Given that the NSG traditionally operates by consensus, the signatories point out that each member state “has a pivotal role to play,” the abolitionists said. If the NSG is to allow nuclear trade with India, NSG should establish “meaningful and common sense conditions and restrictions”.

The suggested conditions include terminating nuclear trade with India if it resumes testing and prohibiting any transfer of sensitive plutonium reprocessing, uranium enrichment, or heavy water production items to India, which can be used to make bomb material.

“Before India is granted a waiver from the NSG’s full-scope safeguards standard, it should join the other original nuclear weapon states by declaring it has stopped fissile material production for weapons purposes and transform its nuclear test moratorium into a meaningful, legally-binding commitment,” the letter said.

Unfortunately, Indian officials are demanding a so-called “clean” and “unconditional” exemption from NSG guidelines and are seeking bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements that help provide India with strategic fuel reserves and/or lifetime fuel guarantees in order to allow it to resume nuclear testing in the future without fear of a fuel supply cut off.

“If nuclear testing is to be deterred, meaningful penalties must be available,” said the letter to NSG foreign ministers.

“If NSG states do agree to supply fuel for India’s ‘civilian’ nuclear sector, they must avoid arrangements that would enable or encourage future nuclear testing by India,” it said. “Otherwise, you and your government may become complicit in the facilitation of a new round of destabilizing nuclear tests.”

Unlike 178 other countries, India has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, continues to produce fissile material and expand its nuclear arsenal, and as one of only three states never to have signed the NPT, it has not made a legally-binding commitment to achieve nuclear disarmament, the letter said.

“Yet the arrangement would give India rights and privileges of civil nuclear trade that have been reserved only for members in good standing under the NPT.

“It creates a dangerous distinction between ‘good’ proliferators and ‘bad’ proliferators and sends out misleading signals to the international community with regard to NPT norms,” the letter said.

“In the absence of a suspension of fissile material production for weapons by India, foreign nuclear fuel supplies would free up India’s relatively limited domestic supplies to be used exclusively in its military nuclear sector, thereby indirectly contributing to the potential expansion of India’s nuclear arsenal,” the signatories wrote.

The letter urged NSG participant countries “to support measures that would avert further damage to the already beleaguered global non-proliferation and disarmament regime.”

Among the former government officials and experts endorsing the letter is Jayantha Dhanapala, the former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs and president of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. Other signatories include the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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