Journalist | Writer | Analyst
…amidst signs that the Group of Six may be flexible at the NSG …
30 August 2008
[In the print edition of The Hindu, this story was split into two with the second part carried inside.]
India studying revised NSG draft
New Delhi: A revised version of the draft waiver that the United States circulated to the Nuclear Suppliers Group earlier this month was handed over to India on Thursday and was still being studied by a team of Indian officials till late Friday evening.
Among those involved in the exercise, which is being led by National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, are Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar and other top officials from the Department of Atomic Energy, Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of External Affairs, including R.B. Grover and D.B. Venkatesh Varma who have been part of India’s negotiating team with the U.S. since 2005. On Friday evening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was briefed on the issue by Mr. Narayanan.
Officials familiar with the issue refused to provide any information on the contents of the new draft, or the changes, if any, India was seeking to make. It is not clear, for example, if modified language is being exchanged back and forth between New Delhi and Washington or whether the entire drafting process might require one further iteration.
With the 45-nation NSG set to meet again in plenary session on September 4, time would appear to be running out for both the U.S. and India. “Member states will need at least five or six days to study the draft,” a European diplomat told The Hindu on Friday, adding that if the draft were not put into circulation by Saturday, the September 4-5 meeting of the nuclear club might have to be postponed by a week.
Another diplomat said that while smaller countries “may not need very much time to get high-level political decisions as we have smaller bureaucracies than others,” countries like Japan and China might well need more time.
While the Bush administration is keen to secure NSG clearance next week and send the 123 agreement for Congressional approval on September 8, Indian officials say their own principal priority is not speed but ensuring the soundness of the draft waiver.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group naysayers have more or less dropped their insistence on any prescriptive language requiring India’s future adherence to non-proliferation benchmarks such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, according to a range of European diplomatic sources familiar with the issue.
But the Group of Six likeminded nations — Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland — continue to press for language that could involve negative consequences for India in the event of Delhi abandoning its unilateral testing moratorium.
A diplomat from the G-6 told The Hindu that the group had handed over on Friday morning a ‘compromise’ formula for a testing post-condition that “ought to satisfy India and us,” though he declined to provide details.
At the same time, there are signs of a possible thawing of the hardline attitudes seen within the NSG last week.
Asked about the possibility of the G-6 accepting purely “cosmetic changes” to the original draft, something Indian officials say that is all they are prepared to accept, one diplomat from the group said “why not?”
Not the only forum
“Our countries wanted an expression of our strong views to come out but this does not mean the NSG is the only forum for this,” he said.
The diplomat added that the group was looking at the NSG waiver for India as a “political” rather than “technical” issue.
The diplomat said that while U.S. Ambassador David Mulford had “consulted” with Delhi-based ambassadors from the six countries on Thursday, the “real talking by the Americans is being done in Washington, Vienna and our capital cities, not here.”