Journalist | Writer | Analyst
22 August 2008
Naysayers set to delay India decision
U.S., India to examine ‘suggestions’
Vienna: The Nuclear Suppliers Group began formal deliberations here Thursday on whether to grant India a waiver from its export guidelines but it is looking increasing as if internal differences within the cartel will lead to any decision being deferred to a second sitting to be convened perhaps two weeks from now.
“The German chair is trying sincerely to do this by tomorrow [Friday],” one diplomat from an NSG member state told The Hindu at the end of discussions on the first day. “But to me it seems as if another round of discussions will be needed at a later date.” His assessment was shared by diplomats from a number of other countries.
The NSG plenary will resume at 1 p.m. on Friday, with member states using the morning to conduct “bilateral discussions.”
According to accounts provided by diplomats who took part in the meeting, a number of countries made statements offering “ideas and concepts” which they felt the United States needs to include in its waiver proposal. These ideas, said diplomats, did not take the form of “precise language” or concrete amendments but centred around finding ways in which the NSG could have “more confidence” in India standing by its non-proliferation commitments.
“What will happen now is that the U.S. will mull over these ideas, and come back to the NSG tomorrow afternoon,” said one diplomat. “And I presume they will spend tonight and tomorrow discussing how these ideas and suggestions could be incorporated, if at all, in the proposed waiver.”
While declining to go into the specific suggestions dissenting countries made, one diplomat hinted that some delegates were looking for an assurance from Delhi on nuclear testing going beyond reiteration of its moratorium.
“For example, if the other major nuclear countries which have to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in order for it to enter into force do so, then is it right that India should remain outside?” he asked. “So can we think of some way to say India will not stand in the way of the treaty entering into force?”
Among the dissidents were New Zealand, Austria and Ireland. But suggestions were made by many countries, including those that had come out in favour of the deal such as Canada and Japan, said one NSG member country diplomat. “Positive” and “constructive” were the two adjectives bandied about the most. “Look, I think you [India] will be happy with the outcome,” one East European official said. “Both sides will not be totally happy,” offered another, adding, “I think there is full awareness within the NSG of what are the Indian red lines and no one has any intention of crossing them.” The fact that not a single country opposed the principle of granting India an exemption, said an NSG official, was a very positive thing. “The rest is detail.”
The group began its meeting in the morning with opening statements from a number of countries and adjourned to attend a brief presentation by Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon. But it was in the post-lunch session that the debate over whether to approve the waiver or not began in right earnest.
American and Indian officials are expected to sit together late into Thursday night to see whether there is scope to reach common ground on the objections raised. It was presumably with such a scenario in mind that India sent a high-powered delegation of seven top officials to Vienna for this meeting.