India, US discuss NSG; will push clean waiver


New Delhi : India and the US Monday discussed issues relating to changing the language of the waiver sought in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as Washington assured New Delhi that it will “stand shoulder-to-shoulder” in pushing for “a clean exemption” in the NSG.

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US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Richard Boucher met Gayatri Kumar, joint secretary in the external affairs ministry (in charge of America) and other officials here and reiterated Washington’s commitment to getting a clean exemption for India in the NSG.

The two sides reviewed discussions at the Aug 20-21 meeting of the 45-nation NSG in Vienna during which a few countries expressed reservations about some aspects of the India-US civil nuclear deal and demanded changes in the draft to accommodate their non-proliferation concerns.

Sceptics at the NSG, including Scandinavian countries, Ireland, Austria and Switzerland, have reportedly demanded changes in the draft of the waiver to include their concerns about testing, periodic review of India’s compliance and restricting export of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies.

Boucher assured the Indian side that even if there are changes in the wording of the draft exemption, it will keep Indian sensitivities in mind on contentious issues like nuclear testing.

The 45-nation cartel controls global export of nuclear fuel and know-how and has to change its existing guidelines before global nuclear trade can resume with New Delhi after a gap of 34 years.

India is in no mood to accept anything less than a clean waiver and has made it clear that it is against the inclusion of any “prescriptive conditionalities” in the NSG exemption that could limit its strategic sovereignty and therefore derail the nuclear deal.

US Ambassador David Mulford Monday sought to assuage Indian anxieties about the form of the NSG exemption by underlining the US’ “commitment to working with India to rapidly complete the remaining steps necessary to conclude the US-India civil nuclear cooperation initiative”.

“The US and India stand shoulder-to-shoulder in their desire for a clean exemption and we will continue to work with our Indian partners to persuade the NSG countries that such an exemption is in the international community’s best interest,” Mulford said in a statement in New Delhi.

“Ahead of the scheduled NSG plenary on Sep 4, the US and India will continue our vigorous joint advocacy for the initiative at the highest levels of NSG governments,” Mulford said.

Mulford’s assurance came amid criticism from some sections in India that the US was not doing its bit to fulfil its commitment under the July 18, 2005, India-US joint statement by persuading friends and allies to adjust international regimes for global nuclear cooperation with New Delhi.