Journalist | Writer | Analyst
20 July 2009
Kakodkar sounded warning on NPT link to ENR
NEW DELHI: The United Progressive Alliance government may insist it is “not concerned” by the recent American move to get the G8 to prohibit the sale of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) items to India pending a similar ban by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. But six months ago, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar publicly drew attention to the restrictive moves afoot and warned that what Washington was pushing was “contrary to the spirit” of India’s bilateral agreement with the United States.
In his inaugural address to a seminar on Global Nuclear Challenges, organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies on January 10, Dr. Kakodkar spoke of “credible but unofficial information” that the Consultative Group of the NSG was “moving very close to the decision that ENR technologies would be available on the condition that one must have signed the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”
He was referring to the NSG draft on ENR transfer rules which emerged from the November 2008 meeting of the nuclear cartel. Barring a few “bracketed” sentences, that draft has the informal approval of the NSG’s 45 members. And it is the unbracketed bulk of the text that the G8 has decided to implement from now on. That text is not public but diplomatic sources told The Hindu the proposed conditions for ENR transfers include NPT adherence. The U.S. also went on record last October to say getting NPT conditionality at the NSG was its top priority.
“Targeted at India”
Contrary to official spin that the new G8 ban (and the NSG ‘clean text’ it implements) is aimed at “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran or “non-state actors”, Dr. Kakodkar was clear about the aim of the NPT rule: “Obviously, such a condition is directly targeted at India.”
He said this because the current NSG guidelines prohibit nuclear transfers of any kind, including ENR items, to countries outside the NPT. India secured a clean waiver from this guideline in September 2008. If the NSG now adopts a new guideline on ENR transfers specifying NPT membership, India would be the only country affected because Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — the other three outside the treaty — were already banned from receiving any nuclear transfers by the existing catch-all guideline.
India, the AEC chairman had warned, “needs to take concerted action to make sure the NSG does not take that decision. And if the NSG does take that decision, it would be a breach of trust and it would be contrary to the spirit which has been spelt out in the Bilateral Agreement with the U.S.”
The ENR issue was important, Dr. Kakodkar said, not because India was desperate about getting any technology in these areas. “The issue is how the world looks at us.” In particular, India does not want to be singled out as a target for an ENR technology ban, least of all because it has not signed the NPT.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who spoke on the issue in Parliament last week when the ENR controversy erupted, said the G8’s decision could not be equated with the NSG. “We have received a clean waiver from 45 NSG countries… therefore we are not concerned with what resolution or position G8 takes in respect of a particular issue.” He added that individual countries had the right to decide whether to trade or not. For India, however, what matters is the NSG waiver.
The NSG has not yet taken a final decision. But this still raises the question of why Washington is pushing rules at the NSG which amount to a “breach of trust” and which are “contrary to the spirit” of the Indo-U.S. agreement. And, of course, what “concerted action” New Delhi is planning to prevent its clean waiver from being formally diluted.