Vienna: The Nuclear Suppliers Group, or NSG, met here on Thursday to consider whether India should be permitted to resume civil nuclear trade with the world, a decision that appears to be a “tough” call as three nations raised questions, even as New Delhi sought to allay fears.
Tough game: India’s special envoy, Shyam Saran at the Bangkok climate meet in March. Saran and other diplomats are hoping India’s good track record on non-proliferation will swing matters in Vienna. Photograph: Sakchai Lalit / AP
After the first day’s deliberations at the meeting of the 45-nation grouping and a special briefing by India for the member-countries, New Delhi said it was “tough game”, but expressed optimism about getting the exemption.
The grouping, that controls international nuclear trade, will meet again on Friday for discussions on the crucial issue amid indications that there could be no decision during the two-day deliberations, and another meeting could be called to take the final view.
Assembling amid continued reservations of at least three member countries, NSG considered a draft of the waiver which is to be adopted by the grouping by consensus.
The draft, moved by the US, recognizes India’s Separation Plan of its nuclear facilities and contains “voluntary” commitments made by New Delhi towards ensuring non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The two-page draft takes note of India’s commitment to “continuing its unilateral moratorium” on nuclear tests and declaring its readiness to “work with others towards conclusion of a multilateral Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).”
After the first session, India held a special briefing for all the NSG countries conveying its commitments towards non-proliferation. The briefing was held as India, which is not a member of NSG, wanted to put its case directly before the members.
Representatives of Austria, New Zealand and Switzerland questioned why India should be granted the waiver to conduct civil nuclear trade with the international community as they raised issues related to Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and testing, people close to the development said.
Responding to questions, the Indian delegation, led by foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, sought to allay the apprehensions citing New Delhi’s “impeccable” track record on non-proliferation front despite not being a signatory to NPT.
Insisting that the initiative will not weaken the non-proliferation system as feared by some, the Indian officials are believed to have pointed out that New Delhi has in place strict export control regime in addition to other measures to guard against transfer of dual-use technology or nuclear fuel to ineligible entities.
After the collective briefing, Menon and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy Shyam Saran, met representatives of NSG countries separately in groups.
A participant later said the briefing, held in a “positive” atmosphere, was “good and useful”.
The NSG clearance is a key step in the implementation of the India-US civilian nuclear deal.