NSG hurdle over, India gets waiver

Vienna, Sep 6 | Updated: Sep 7 2008, 06:25am hrs
Ending 34 years of nuclear isolation enforced in the wake of the 1974 Pokharan tests, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on Saturday granted India a crucial waiver that will enable it to carry out nuclear commerce.

The unprecedented decision of the 45-nation nuclear cartel giving exemption to a country, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a landmark step in the implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal that will now go to the US Congress for approval. Now, Congress must act before adjourning in late September for elections or the deal could be left to an uncertain fate under a new US administration.

The US-India deal raised international misgivings since India has shunned the almost universal Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) meant to stop the spread and production of nuclear weapons and mandate gradual disarmament, and a companion test ban pact.

After protracted negotiations, the NSG today adopted an exemption for nuclear exports to India, the Austrian foreign ministry said in a statement. There is a sense of relief. I am particularly happy that the waiver (for India) meets with international nuclear non-proliferation architecture, Peter Launsky, Austrian foreign ministry spokesman said after an unscheduled meeting of the NSG here.

The one-off waiver came after several small NSG states agreed under heavy US pressure to weaker language than they had sought to ensure India does not test nuclear bombs again.

Austria, along with Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland had expressed strong reservations over the waiver being given to India that forced the grouping to have an unscheduled meeting on Saturday after two days of deliberations failed to produce a consensus.

China, which had joined these countries on Friday night, did not oppose the waiver on Saturday but raised some questions regarding specific issues. After the consensus was adopted, Beijing expressed its stated position.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjees statement on Friday reaffirming Indias commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament goals and the reference to its voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing appears to have played a major role in placating the countries that had strong views on proliferation.

It also said Indiawhose regional rival Pakistan also has nuclear firepower outside the NPTwould not join any future nuclear arms race, would permit broader UN inspections and adhere to the NSG anti-proliferation export control regime.

The NSG consensus was also based on a number of understandings against exports of fuel-enrichment technology able to produce peaceful energy or bombs, diplomats said.

Some changes have been made to the revised draft of the waiver to assuage concerns of the sceptic countries but details of the exact changes were still not available.

The four countries were initially not fully satisfied with the statement and wanted this commitment to be incorporated in the US-steered draft waiver. They also wanted inclusion of the consequences that would follow a nuclear test.

But India had been opposed to inclusion of any conditionalities which it felt would undermine its sovereign right to undertake a nuclear test.

US acting under secretary of state for arms control John Rood, who steered Washingtons campaign in the NSG, described the decision as landmark. He said it was an important moment for strengthening non-proliferation regime. Asked what was the main factor that led to the breakthrough, Launsky said Fridays statement of Mukherjee assuaged the concerns of Austria and like-minded members making a contribution in achieving the objective.

The relief is also there for Austria, particularly in the Indian governments plan for separation of 14 power plants that will come under the inspection of the UN atomic watchdog IAEA. Before the nuclear group approved the deal, US officials had contended that selling peaceful nuclear technology to India would bring the countrys atomic program under closer scrutiny and boostnot undermineinternational non-proliferation efforts.

1968: India refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the grounds that it is discriminatory

May 18, 1974: India conducts its first nuclear test

March 10, 1978: US President Jimmy Carter signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, following which the US ceases exporting nuclear assistance to India.

May 11-13, 1998: India tests five underground nuclear tests

July 18, 2005: US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh first announce their intention to enter into a nuclear agreement in Washington.

March 1, 2006: Bush visits India for the first time

March 3, 2006: Bush and Singh issue a joint statement on their growing strategic partnership, emphasising their agreement on civil nuclear cooperation

July 26, 2006: The US House of Representatives passes the Henry J Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, which stipulates that Washington will cooperate with New Delhi on nuclear issues and exempt it from signing the non-proliferation Treaty

July 28, 2006: The Left parties demand threadbare discussion on the issue in Parliament.

Nov 16, 2006: The US Senate passes the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation and US Additional Protocol Implementation Act

Dec 18, 2006: President Bush signs into law congressional legislation on Indian atomic energy

July 27, 2007: Negotiations on a bilateral agreement between the US and India conclude

Aug 3, 2007: The text of the Agreement for Cooperation between the US and India concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy (123 Agreement) is released by both governments

Aug 13, 2007: Singh makes a suo motu statement on the deal in Parliament Left parties withdraw support to the government

July 9, 2008: The draft India-specific safeguards accord with the IAEA circulated to IAEAs Board of Governors for approval

July 10, 2008: PM calls for a vote of confidence in Parliament

July 22, 2008: UPA government wins trust vote in the Lok Sabha

July 24, 2008: India launches full blast lobbying among the 45-nation NSG for an exemption for nuclear commerce

Aug 1, 2008: IAEA Board of Governors adopts India-specific safeguards agreement unanimously

Aug 21-22, 2008: The NSG meet to consider an India waiver ends inconclusively amid reservations by some countries

Sep 4-6, 2008: The NSG meets for the second time on the issue after the US comes up with a revised draft and grants waiver to India after marathon parleys

Agencies