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The India exemption issue might just settled sooner than we all think, if the optimistic assessment of Berlin and New Delhi pans out…
19 August 2008
India, Germany hopeful of NSG clearance in one shot
NEW DELHI: Though provision has been made for the Nuclear Suppliers Group to meet again in a full-fledged plenary on September 2, Indian and German officials are hopeful that the 45-nation cartel might decide to relax its export rules for India during its two-day meeting in Vienna later this week.
Germany holds the NSG’s rotating chair and a senior official from its Foreign Ministry — Ambassador Viktor Elbling from the international energy division — will have the task of steering the group towards a consensus on allowing nuclear commerce with India during the plenary consultations that are scheduled for August 21 and 22.
Speaking to The Hindu on background, a German official said that while several NSG members had questions and concerns about the proposal, Berlin was hopeful that a decision on the proposed exemption for India could be reached during the two days itself. The official noted that so far Germany had not received any written communication from member states seeking amendments in the draft exemption, though he did not rule out the possibility of suggestions being made during the Vienna meeting.
In line with India’s reservations about briefing an NSG meeting without being a member of the group, the German official said there were other ways India could speak to the group. The visiting Indian delegation could always invite NSG members for a briefing on the sidelines of the group’s plenary, he said. It would then be up to the individual member states to decide whether they wished to listen to what India had to say or not. India, too, would be free to decide the format of the briefing. On their part, Indian officials share the optimism of their German counterparts about the waiver going through this week itself. “What we are hoping for is for the NSG to agree ad ref,” an official here said, using U.N.-speak for a decision that is subject to the agreement of superior authority. The proposed September 2 plenary could then be a short affair where the cartel’s new guidelines are formally amended.
Though a final decision has not yet been taken, India is now settling on a strategy of making a presentation in Vienna to which all NSG members would be invited. In fact, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon had conducted a similar briefing on India’s safeguards agreement for board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as NSG states on July 18.
As on that occasion, the briefing, which will take place on August 21, will be ‘informal,’ i.e. no records will be kept and nothing will be put down on paper.