Journalist | Writer | Analyst
Glenn Kessler in today’s Washington Post has a “sensational” story about how the Nuclear Suppliers Group last week reached a gentleman’s understanding about not supplying India with sensitive nuclear technology. Three things here. First, this is not news. I reported this in The Hindu on September 7:
Asked for his assessment of the waiver, a diplomat from a European country which initially wanted much stronger conditional language said his government had joined the consensus “very reluctantly”. “I wouldn’t say we’re happy”, he said, adding that his country and several others had been “leaned on at the highest levels”.
The diplomat said the final form of the waiver was an improvement over the previous draft, especially the chapeau of paragraph 3 which established what he described as a “strong link” between commitment and action. Nevertheless, his country agreed to sign on mainly because it had received two key assurances during consultations within the various steering committees. First, that no participating government (PG) currently intended to transfer ENR equipment to India, and second, that PGs would take India’s compliance with its commitments into account before agreeing to any nuclear transfers. The diplomat added that his government, and many others, had reiterated these assurances in their national statements before adoption of the waiver decision. Though there was no separate chairman’s statement elaborating these assurances, the diplomat said the national statements now formed part of the NSG’s internal records and could always be referred to in the future.
Second, this was not an ‘agreement’ within the NSG plenary but an informal assurance provided by some supplier countries, in an ad hoc steering committee, that they had no “current” intentions of transferring ENR items to India. Third, a number of countries tried to have a chairman’s statement reflect these assurances but this was resisted by others and no such statement was made…
But Kessler is right (or rather the non-pro U.S. officials who gave him this story are right) that the NSG will likely adopt future guidelines formally restricting access to ENR. These guidelines could involve NPT membership, non-replicability, adherence to the Additional Protocol and tighter safeguards measures. Consensus on all of these won’t be easy, except for NPT membership. Ensuring new guidelines that block access are not adopted will be tomorrow’s major challenge for Indian diplomacy.