Nuclear deal: Germany to bat for consensus in NSG

By Manish Chand, IANS

New Delhi : With the bilateral India-US civil nuclear pact in place, India will now go all out to garner support of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) – a mission in which it can expect support from Germany, the next chair of the group.

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"Germany will try to evolve a consensus (for civil nuclear cooperation with India) in the NSG," German Ambassador Bernd Muetzelburg told IANS.

When Germany assumes the chair of the NSG later this year, it will initiate the process of building consensus in the group for the nuclear deal, the envoy said.

"The nuclear deal has ended India's isolation and will bring it into the global nuclear mainstream," said the German envoy.

"India's record in non-proliferation is excellent. India has been moving in this direction for quite some time," he said.

In the same breath, the envoy added that Berlin would take an official position on the NSG after the details of the 123 agreement and New Delhi's safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are shared.

India will approach the NSG, which controls the flow of nuclear fuel and technology, for adjusting its guidelines for resuming global civil nuclear cooperation after it seals the nuclear deal with the US.

Muetzelburg also stressed that while Berlin is likely to take a broadly positive view of the India-US civil deal, it will "not be easy" given the strong pacifist constituency in the country that balk at the very idea of nuclear energy.

"It's not an easy task given India's refusal to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime," he said.

The envoy also candidly admitted that there is a growing recognition of India's decision to go nuclear in 1998 because it had to operate in "a difficult security environment" – a reference to Chinese and Pakistan's nuclear programme.

Muetzelburg hoped that India will play a key role in the new nuclear order, which he stressed will be more efficient and stringent as the NPT regime reinvents itself to accommodate new realities.

Germany's support will go a long way in building consensus for the nuclear deal among EU members of the NSG, especially Scandinavian countries who have strong sensitivities on nuclear energy.

India's NSG diplomacy will be put to test next month when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe comes here on a bilateral visit. Getting the support of Tokyo, which is sensitive about the issue due to its history of being the only nation to be attacked by nuclear weapons, will be high on the agenda.

Japan, a difficult customer, has indicated that it was ready to consider "forward-looking approaches" on civil nuclear cooperation with India but will take a formal call on it in the NSG only after the 123 agreement.

India's case in the NSG got a boost this month with Brazil and current chair of the NSG South Africa, key members of the NSG, expressing in-principle support for civil nuclear cooperation with India in the NSG.