Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Transcript: NSA Narayanan on India’s red lines at the NSG

According to the NSA, India won’t accept in the revised Nuclear Suppliers Group draft waiver:
* an explicit reference to a nuclear test by India triggering adverse consequences
* a provision for periodic review
* a separate ban on enrichment and reprocessing equipment sales to India by the NSG
He also says India would have no great issue with the NSG chair making a statement outlining the issues and concerns some states may have on the waiver and on India in general, since this would not impinge on the decision per se.
Here’s the transcript of Karan Thapar’s interview in full. It will be broadcast on CNN-IBN on Sunday night….

Devil’s Advocate with National Security Advisor, M K Narayanan – Transcript of Segment 1 on Indo-US nuclear deal

CNN-IBN Do you believe that the last NSG meeting in Vienna represented a delay, a setback or a debacle for the Indo-Us nuclear deal?

M K Narayanan: Certainly not a debacle – that I think is very clear – nor do I think it was a setback. It was a pause, I think, in the programme. But I think we were prepared for this because we had been told that it might be necessary to have two rounds before we could finalise something which was mutually satisfactory.

CNN-IBN As you prepare for the second meeting on the September 4, which is just six days away, are you confident you can get clean exemption from the NSG, or have your confidence levels dipped somewhat?

M K Narayanan: You know, we have gone through these efforts many times. There are periods when you are highly elated (and then) sometimes you feel rather despondent. I think we have a good idea after the discussions – which took place in Vienna for the India-specific safeguard agreement – (as to) where many countries stood vis-a-vis India on this question. In the first round, I think many of the concerns were suitably dealt with, (but) some still remain. I think our problem with the NSG is primarily that we are not members of the NSG and therefore, we have to depend entirely on other countries to put forward our case. But I must say that countries like the United States, Russia, France, the UK and number of others have done herculean efforts and I think we are nearing the goal.

CNN-IBN Are you optimistic, you don’t sound it by your tone?

M K Narayanan: No, I am optimistic but I don’t want to allow my optimisim to override caution.

CNN-IBN Now we are speaking on Friday evening, you are six days away from the next NSG meeting. Has India been shown the new amended draft exemption?

M K Narayanan: This is work in progress. I can’t you where exactly where we are on this question.

CNN-IBN Except for the fact that you are on Friday evening, there is weekend coming up, then it will be Monday and then just three days will be left. If you haven’t been shown the draft exemption, isn’t it running very close?

M K Narayanan: No. We are running close but I don’t think we have much of a problem on that.

CNN-IBN So you are confident that your concerns will be taken care of even though you can’t admit that you have seen or not seen the draft exemption?

M K Narayanan: There is a constant dialogue that is going on between Delhi and Washington and I think various people across. So, I think we are fully aware of what is going on.

CNN-IBN There are three principal concerns that have been flagged. The first is simply to do with how extensive will the rewrite of the exemption be, are you anticipating a very comprehensive (review), or are you hoping for cosmetic changes or something in between the two?

M K Narayanan: We have sort of already flagged our concerns. Those concerns are well known. I think most of the country recognised the validity of our concerns, there are some countries who, I think, are ideologically committed to the concepts or ideas of non-proliferation and hence tend to take a very hardline position. I think it is really a question of convincing them that India, with its impeccable record of non-proliferation has always stood – if necessary – for the universal nuclear disarmament (and) is the right candidate for universal nuclear commerce.

CNN-IBN That I fully understand. But are you saying that this means you will accept only cosmetic changes rather than anything more substantial?

M K Narayanan: There is no question of cosmetic or otherwise. What we are asking is that there are certain issues which have been drawn in red lines by us because those are the commitments which have been made by our Prime Minister.

CNN-IBN And, on those red lines you can’t give way?

M K Narayanan: On those red lines we can’t because that we have told Parliament. These are sacrosanct, if these are not met we cannot endorse the agreement.

CNN-IBN The press has highlighted three concerns. The first is the requirement that some NSG countries are talking about a condition that the exemption will terminate if India were to carry out further nuclear testing. Is there any way it could be reflected in the new, amended exemption or would it a deal breaker in any shape or form for India?

M K Narayanan: I think you should give some credit to creative diplomacy in these matters. I presume that we will find a way out it. This the time a deal is done, it is difficult to say yes but I think it should be possible for us to surmount some of these obstacles.

CNN-IBN You mentioned creative diplomacy, could you accept the form of language that is used in the 123 agreement if it were to be used in this new NSG draft. In the 123 (agreement), there is no actual mention of the specific word ‘nuclear testing’. Could that formulation suffice for you?

M K Narayanan: We have always made this point that testing is a word that we find difficult to adjust with. Not because of anything else but because Parliament has mandated us to do so. Testing would be difficult for us. So, we will find ways around it.

CNN-IBN Leave testing apart, but is the rest okay?

M K Narayanan: We are clear that whatever we finally agree to with the NSG countries will be something we can sell to Parliament.

CNN-IBN I think you have hinted a sort of formulation, the 123 language which doesn’t mention testing could be acceptable provided it is acceptable to others.

M K Narayanan: I hope that we can move forward on some of these issues.

CNN-IBN Second condition mentioned by the NSG countries is that the exemption should exclude Enrichment and Reprocessing technologies. Given that India has its own ENR technologies, can you live with that exclusion or would that be a deal break?

M K Narayanan: In case of the US, they have certain conditions about allowing the Enrichment and Reprocessing technologies to the countries but in the case of NSG, our case is different. We say that what we are asking the NSG does not have a ban on Enrichment and Reprocessing technologies. There is a broad ban which the NSG has on many items with India which includes any kind of nuclear commerce and related matters. What we are saying is that if you are giving us exemption on those items please, give us exemption because unlike the laws in the US. None of the countries in the NSG have a ban imposed in their countries.

CNN-IBN Don’t introduce a specific ban for India in this exemption?

M K Narayanan: Definitely, we don’t want ourselves to be singled out for this. What we have made clear – and this is what all of us talked about – if any country does not wish to give us Enrichment and Reprocessing technologies and still wishes to have nuclear commerce, we’ll draw up our guidelines according to that. What we don’t want is each country’s individual predilections forming a huge package of items in the NSG exemptions.

Quite right, let the NSG not take a position on this issue, let individual countries approach them to do it. Finally, there is also a demand for what is called a periodic review of India’s compliance in India’s behaviour. Is that acceptable to you in any shape or form?

M K Narayanan: No, we believe this is uncalled for. We have put all our cards on the table, we have been as transparent as anyone else, we are willing to make our case before the NSG, we don’t understand what is the need of a review. Principally not because of anything else, but this is a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, it involves commerce, it involves people investing money, countries investing money, it is a long-term agreement. They are putting money for 30 to 40 years so if you have a review at the end of three years and somebody says that oh well this shouldn’t be done then nobody is going to invest in this agreement.

CNN-IBN I understand, you make your position very clear on the testing issue, the ENR technology issue and the periodic review concern, does America agree with your positions or do they have question marks or still do they have doubts about your positions?

M K Narayanan:
This question should be probably addressed to the US but we have carried conviction to them, to the extent possible. They understand where we come from and that they would help us in the matter.

CNN-IBN Lets focus little on the US’ role, do you believe that Washington did enough to prevent the naysayers from pushing amendments or do you think that in fact Washington did not take as hard line as you would have liked it to have taken?

M K Narayanan: This is a dangerous question you have asked me but make me the point. When we were negotiating with the US it was easier because the US knew what it could give and what it could not give. We recognised that the US is the world power, it is both militarily and economically it is one of the dominating countries in the world but even they have some limits. There is always a case of doing better, it is like preparing for examinations. Somebody could always say that you could have prepared more. I personally think that tremendous effort has been made by the US to help us in this matter as have countries like France, Russia and others, where they could have done even more. But even after the first round is over, they are very actively involved. So frankly speaking, I have no complains to make.

CNN-IBN You are not criticising them, you are accepting that they made terrific efforts but you are holding up the possibility that they could have done more?

M K Narayanan: Like in everything else, could I have made a better case before all these people but I have just been cautious so that somebody would pick up (on it) and say x y and z. In as much as they have done in most other cases, they have done here.

CNN-IBN There is a view in the press that the American ambassador’s repeated assertion that India’s requirement or insistence on unconditional exemption is both inappropriate and provocative. There has also been a position taken about how would Berman…, the Chairman of the House Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee actually telling Condolezza Rice not to go ahead with exemptions that would in some way circumvent the Hyde Act. Has all of that been unhelpful?

M K Narayanan: No, I think the American ambassador in New Delhi has been an extremely positive factor.

So, the press has wrongly picked on him?

M K Narayanan:
I think they have a love-hate relationship with prominent US diplomats. I have interacted with Ambassador Mulford for the last four years very closely and I think he has done a tremendous job. Few ambassadors would have put as much effort as he has done. Yes, sometimes the statements he makes make people a little annoyed and upset but I think much the same can be said about me. So it’s the part of the course.

CNN-IBN Let me put it like this, if the NSG were to grant you a clean exemption on September 4 or 5 but if the chairman of the NSG alongside were to make a statement listing a prescriptive list of suggestions, they are not conditions but suggestions. Could India live with that?

M K Narayanan: I presume it be the Chairman’s prerogative to make of what he says and what he likes but as long as they are not laid down as conditions, we have talked in terms of a clean exemption, an unconditional exemption. We have not said that there should be no whisper about what anybody wishes to say. We are not behaving like 16-year-olds and recognise that countries have problems. If the Chairman is making a statement which reflects, to some extent, some of those points, may be. But as long as it does not inhibit us from what we believe is a clean and unconditional exemption, (it’s okay).

CNN-IBN Has India made it clear to countries like Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, some of the Scandinavian countries (like) Ireland that if they insisted on imposing unacceptable conditions, it would have damaging impact on their bilateral relationships with New Delhi?

M K Narayanan: No, as far as I am aware, we have not done any arm-twisting in this. For that matter, several countries – Russia for instance – has actually offered to help us with Austria. So they are doing most of the talking. I don’t think we have tried what I would call unscrupulous or underhand methods to pressurise.

CNN-IBN But you are not suggesting that the Austrians, the Irish or the Swiss could think they could impose conditions which you cannot accept and that there would be no damage to the bilateral relationships?

M K Narayanan: Then, you should ask them. But I don’t think we are making that the touchstone for a relationship. It is important, I presume that if someone is friendly with us, they would certainly get a benefit over somebody who is less friendly with us.

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2008 by in Nuclear Issues.



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