Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Eventual NPT compliance a sticking point in NSG guidelines

The U.S. knows India will never sign the NPT so why should it seek to retain language in the NSG amendment for India suggesting India should accept full-scope safeguards?

6 August 2008
The Hindu

Eventual NPT link a sticking point
U.S., India still working on draft

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: The American insistence on retaining prescriptive language about India eventually accepting international inspections at all its nuclear facilities has emerged as one of the key stumbling blocks in the process of exempting New Delhi from the export rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Draft language has been moving back and forth “at multiple levels” between the two countries for the past few days but a fix has not yet been found to this problem, senior officials told The Hindu. Including the proposed language would be tantamount to reiterating that the NSG expects India to accede to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), something the Indian government maintains it will never do.

India had strongly objected to this formulation as early as March 2006, when the U.S. first circulated a six-paragraph ‘pre-decisional’ draft of proposed changes to the NSG’s guidelines. But a version of that prescriptive language continues to bedevil the process. The U.S. says that several European members of the NSG are insisting on the retention of this stipulation, though the fact that it was a part of the initial American draft suggests Washington also attaches some value to it.

The NSG is expected to begin deliberating on the Indian exemption on August 21 but a final decision is likely to be taken only at a second meeting to be held in the first week of September.

The NSG’s export restrictions are contained in paragraph 4 of its guidelines, published by the International Atomic Energy Agency as Infcirc/254 (Rev.9). Paragraph 4(a) says a necessary condition for nuclear sales is that the recipient country must have a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA allowing for inspection of all its nuclear installations. Paras 4(b) and (c) allow exceptions to this rule if there are safety considerations, or if a supply agreement was drawn up prior to 1992, when the rules were adopted. And 4(d) says suppliers invoking these two exceptions “will continue to strive for the earliest possible implementation of the policy referred to in paragraph 4(a)”, i.e. acceptance of full-scope safeguards.

The U.S. draft would relax the Paragraph 4(a) requirement of full-scope safeguards for India as long as NSG members are satisfied India is meeting its nonproliferation and safeguards obligations as outlined in its safeguards agreement with the IAEA and the July 2005 agreement with the U.S. These include the testing moratorium, maintaining an effective system of export control, working towards a fissile material cut-off treaty and negotiating an additional protocol with the IAEA. But the draft also reiterates language from paragraph 4(d) of the NSG guidelines, something that is anathema to New Delhi.

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This entry was posted on August 6, 2008 by in Nuclear Issues.

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