New Delhi may agree to some changes in draft NSG waiver

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi, Aug 26 | Updated: Aug 28 2008, 05:18am hrs
India is likely to agree to some changes in the draft NSG waiver that would address apprehensions of concerned member countries and facilitate the waiver from the international body. However, these changes would not be prescriptive in nature, sources have asserted.

Ways to bridge the perceptional divide on the subject were thrashed out a the meeting that foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon had with Nicholas Burns in Washington, even as US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday signalled the US determination to push through with the deal by assertion that it was top most on the Bush administrations mind.

Our principal focus right now has been on the India civil nuclear deal, having worked through the IAEA, now working through the NSG, and still trying to get into a position to make the appropriate Presidential determinations in early September, Rice told reporters on way to Tel Aviv.

In New Delhi, discussions on Monday between US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher and Indian negotiators also helped in covering much ground on the draft agreement. Negotiators at both ends attempted to strike a balance in the draft so that it covered concerns raised by NSG members without any conditions being attached to it. External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee last week maintained that India would not agree for prescriptive amendments in the text. On the other hand, countries like New Zealand, Austria and Switzerland have insisted on including a language that would address their non-proliferation concerns since India has a strategic nuclear programme without being a signatory to the NPT.

White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto echoed Rices sentiments when he responded to questions on the Indo-Russia nuclear deal. I think we have another nuclear agreement in the queue ahead of that (Russian deal), that were really focussed on right now, and thats the India civil nuclear agreement. And thats generating a lot of work and time and energy on our part to get that done, Fratto said.

Clearance from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group is a key step in the implementation of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal after which it has to be subjected to a final vote in the US Congress, which will be meeting on September 8 for the last session during the Bush administration. Foreign Secretary Menon also met US Acting National Security Adviser James Jeffrey in Washington during which the same issue was discussed.

The NSG, at its August 21-22 meeting, failed to arrive at a consensus for the waiver for India and has called a second meeting on September 4. The NSG nod is essential to allow India to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with the international community, ending its 34-year long isolation in the field.