NSG process making progress: US

By Mehru Jaffer, IANS,

Vienna : Two hours after the Nuclear Suppliers Group here began its discussions on a waiver for lifting the ban on nuclear trade with India, the US Thursday said it was “determined” to work with NSG countries for the exemption which is aimed at bringing “one of the world’s largest economies and largest democracy more fully” into the global nuclear fold.

Support TwoCircles

“The steps we are considering for India will strengthen non-proliferation and help to welcome one of the world’s largest economies and the world’s largest democracy more fully into the global fold,” US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, Washington’s pointsman on the India-US nuclear deal, told reporters here.

“I believe that we are making steady progress in this process and that we will continue to make progress,” he said.

“While a number of representatives here have raised important questions that need to be addressed the discussion have been constructive and really aimed at reaching an early consensus,” Burns said while alluding to objections raised by some sceptics in the NSG who fear that the deal may end up undermining the existing non-proliferation regime.

“The truth is that before us we have a historic opportunity to end more than three decades of India’s isolation from nuclear regimes. And that opportunity warrants the extraordinary efforts that we are making,” Burns underlined.

“The US, for its part, is determined to do all that we can in working with our partners in the NSG and with India to realise that opportunity,” he said.

Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland) and Switzerland are among those countries in the NSG who are opposing a clean waiver for India and are insisting on including some prescriptive conditions on nuclear testing which are anathema to New Delhi.

India has made it clear that it will not accept anything that goes beyond the 123 India-US bilateral agreement, the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assurance to the Indian parliament about New Delhi’s sovereign right to test a nuclear device if circumstances compelled it to do so.

India abides by a unilateral moratorium on testing, the Indian external affairs ministry said here Wednesday after a “secret” letter by the state department to the US Congress was made public. In this letter, the Bush administration informed the US Congress that nuclear trade with India will cease immediately if New Delhi were to conduct a nuclear test.