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Red rag gets into US Vienna file

Washington, Sept. 20: The Bush administration has told the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls the global commerce in nuclear material and technology, that it is seeking an exemption for India to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Paragraph 1. a. of a US proposal circulated among NSG countries states that the group’s member governments would agree to change the rules for India because they “desire to contribute to an effective non-proliferation regime, and to the widest possible implementation of the objectives of the treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”.

The US document, which has six sections and 11 sub-sections, is in the possession of The Telegraph.

It is bound to be a red rag to those in India who are already opposed to the nuclear deal with the US on the ground that the NSG will try to seek India’s backdoor compliance with the NPT, which New Delhi has repeatedly rejected.

The document goes against the media spin by US officials in New Delhi that the Americans are helping India to win over a reluctant NSG.

Opponents of the deal will now argue that the US is merely promoting its well-known non-proliferation goals and trying to get India to cave in to the standard NSG position that seeks to perpetuate the current discriminatory global non-proliferation regime.

Indian officials believe the US is making changes to its circulated draft, taking into account New Delhi’s sensitivities.

There was evidence in Vienna today that this may well be the case. Richard JK Stratford, a key negotiator with India on the deal, did not make any references to the NPT in his public pronouncements on the issue in Vienna today.

Indian officials who are in Vienna are understood to have told the Americans that references to the NPT in any formal decision by the group will further complicate the UPA government’s efforts to win acceptance for the deal in India.

Bush administration officials are believed to have countered this argument with semantics, pointing out that their document seeks to promote “the objectives of” the NPT and not the treaty itself.

India has never spoken against the lofty objectives of the NPT, but only to some of its substance and, more important, to the way it has been implemented.

Paragraph 2. b. of the US document argues that “having committed to continue its moratorium on nuclear testing and to work with others towards achievement of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty”, the NSG should change its rules for India.

The implication of this paragraph is that if India tests another nuclear weapon in the future, any exemption by the NSG could be in jeopardy.

The US proposal says “participating governments may transfer trigger list items and/or related technology to the safeguarded civil nuclear facilities in India (a state not party, and never having been a party, to the NPT) as long as the participating government intending to make the transfer is satisfied that India continues to fully meet all of the aforementioned non-proliferation and safeguards commitments, and all other requirements of the NSG guidelines”.

All of which makes an NSG exemption for India on these lines a double-edged weapon requiring much more negotiation similar to the ones that led to the final 123 Agreement with the US.

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