India, US set to fine-tune draft waiver

ID :
Sat, 08/23/2008 - 20:07

India, US set to fine-tune draft waiver

Vienna, Aug 23 (PTI) With attempts to get a quick and clean exemption from Nuclear Suppliers Group (N.S.G.) not materialising immediately, India and the US are set to work on changes in the draft waiver for fine-tuning its provisions inthe light of reservations expressed by some countries.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon left this morning for Washington after the two-day Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting here ended inconclusively Friday with another round scheduled early next month for considering India's case for anexemption to do nuclear commerce with other countries.

Though officials maintained that Menon's trip to Washington was pre-planned, the significance of the visit is not lost on observers who feel that he may utilise the occasion to work with the US on how to come out with a waiver that will be acceptable to all without compromising India'sposition.

The 45-nation N.S.G. will meet early next month, possibly on September 4-5, to consider the changes which US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said are necessary to accommodate the concerns raised by somecountries.

Boucher said in Mumbai Friday that some countries had"objections" and "we need to listen" to them.

"I don't want to lie to you...I can't really lie. There might be some changes that we could accept. But we are pushingfor a clean text", he had said.

"The US and India will have to sit together and see what we can accommodate and what we can't. We will have to talk tothe other governments involved", said Boucher.

India is also firm that it wants an unconditional exemption and a language acceptable to it on all issues,including right to conduct tests.

After the N.S.G. meeting, Menon, who is expected to meet US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, told reporters that as per the July 18, 2005 understanding, the US will have to obtain adjustments with theN.S.G.

He understood from various friendly nations that none of the members said that there should not be any specialexemption to India, the Foreign Secretary said.

Menon said he learnt that the two-day N.S.G. meting was constructive and useful and exemption to the grouping'sguidelines would help in the civil nuclear trade.

He said an exemption is a necessary step for the cooperation between N.S.G. and India and "we look forward to work with them on civil nuclear cooperation." Ahead of the N.S.G. meeting early September, the US willhave to carry out changes suggested by at least 20 members.

Menon said he will not comment on what India feels now as it is a diplomatic process and it has to see what kind of changes are being made by the Americans based on thesuggestions made by N.S.G.

One of the diplomats said that India will examine the changes in the draft carefully once the Americans redraft it to check whether the changes are substantial or innocuouseditorial changes. No time-frame, however, has been fixed.

Menon said the US very well knew India's stand on the issue and it is for Washington to carry out thecommitments made on July 18, 2005.

India has been carrying out an aggressive 'out reach' programme meeting each and every N.S.G. member country, mostly at the top diplomatic and political level for the past threeweeks, especially last three days.

Menon said there were indications that differences among the N.S.G. member countries over an exemption to India were getting narrowed down and added it was remarkable that it was happening in such a short span. "We hope that they come to the right conclusion." While the Indian diplomats said no time-frame has been fixed for carrying out the changes in the draft, the US isexpected to do the work in the coming two weeks.

During the last three weeks, the Indian delegation met all N.S.G. members individually and told them about NewDelhi's impeccable record of non-proliferation.

Describing the N.S.G. meeting as "positive," John Rood, the leader of the US delegation, said yesterday many delegates raised some questions. "I remain optimistic and we will continue to make progress." Sources in Vienna said some changes would be made in the language of the draft and the US will circulate it before thenext N.S.G. meeting.

The N.S.G. meeting in September will be crucial considering the time constraint for operationalising the Indo-US nuclear deal as Washington has set a time-line forCongressional discussion on September 8.

After the N.S.G. clearance, the deal will go back for a final vote to the US Congress which will open on September 8 a three-week session, the last before the AmericanPresidential elections in November.

A senior N.S.G. diplomat, meanwhile, said there could be one or more rounds of talks after the September meeting of the grouping as the process involves the sensitive issue oftransfer of nuclear material and equipment.

"The US and India will have to sit together and see what we can accommodate and what we can't. We will have to talk tothe other governments involved," a US official said.

He did not specify as to what kind of changes would be made in the draft, which was finalised after toughnegotiations between Washington and New Delhi.

Sources in Vienna said some changes would be made in the language of the draft, which the US will bring back at thenext N.S.G. meeting.

The Indian side also understood to have pointed out that New Delhi already has in place strict export control rules to prohibit transfer of nuclear technology and fuel to ineligibleentities.

When asked whether they were disappointed after the N.S.G.

meeting ended inconclusively, Indian diplomats said they knew that it was going to be a tough game. But, they said, it was aprocess and it would take its own time.