Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

U.S. Congress for killer clause in Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines

Wants stipulation that any violation by India of agreements with one country should lead to termmination of exports by others.

11 December 2006
The Hindu

U.S. Congress for killer clause in Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: If the United States Congress has its way, Washington will insist that the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s amended guidelines include a stipulation that a violation by India of any of its agreements with one supplier country should lead to the cancellation of cooperation with every other.

In their background report attached to the final version of the U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Act, the conferees — the three Senators and three Congressmen tasked with reconciling the Senate and House versions of the draft law — dwelt at length on the possibility that India might turn to other countries for supplies because of the onerous conditions attached to U.S. nuclear transfers to India.

Apart from urging the Executive to persuade other NSG countries to harmonise their nuclear export provisions for India with those of the U.S., the conferees said the U.S. must “seek agreement among NSG members that violations by one country of an agreement with any NSG member should result in joint action by all members, including, as appropriate, the termination of nuclear exports”.

In the Act, this demand finds expression in Section 103(a)(6) when it states that U.S. policy must be to seek to prevent the transfer “to a country” (i.e. India) of any nuclear material from NSG members if the U.S. itself terminates or suspends nuclear transfers to that country.

If adopted, such a rule would introduce a permanent element of uncertainty into not just India’s nuclear cooperation with the U.S. but with other countries like France and Russia as well.

The conferees also stressed that the U.S. “must ensure that any decision the NSG makes regarding granting an exemption for nuclear commerce [with India] does not disadvantage U.S. industry by setting less strict conditions for countries trading with India than those embodied in the conditions and requirements of this Act”.

So far, the Bush administration’s proposal for revised guidelines at the NSG asks only for the restriction contained in Section 4 of INFCIRC 254/Part 1/Rev. 7 – that “trigger list” items can only be sold to countries with full-scope safeguards – to be lifted in the case of India. The “pre-decisional draft” circulated to NSG members in March suggesting this rule change also takes note of India’s commitment to abide by six conditions including a nuclear testing moratorium.

Just as the first draft of the nuclear cooperation Bill started out life as a one-page document only to end up as a 41-page Act, it is possible the NSG revision may also be made more complex and conditional. As matters stand, for example, allowing India to access the trigger list means allowing it to access even “sensitive” technologies like enrichment. However, in testimony to the House International Relations Committee on April 5, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that “we have informed our NSG partners that we do not intend to provide enrichment or reprocessing technologies to India [and] our bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation will not permit such transfers to be made under it.” At the NSG plenary, then, it is possible some move may be made formally to dilute or qualify the trigger list exemption for India.

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2006 by in Nuclear Issues.

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