New Delhi: India’s top diplomat on Sunday hinted New Delhi could ban nuclear reactor purchases from countries refusing to sell sensitive nuclear technology to it after suppliers decided to tighten such trade against countries like India.
Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao also said the United States, Russia and France stood by their promises to supply such technology despite last month’s decision by the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) to restrict transfer of uranium enrichment and reprocessing technology which can be used to make atomic bombs.
The suppliers’ decision was seen as a blow to nuclear-armed India, which won a waiver from such trade restrictions in 2008, a move that ended its three-decade-long nuclear isolation.
“I think the latest NSG decision is not the end of the road. It is not set in stone. Let me say that,” Rao told a television channel in an interview, the transcript of which was made available in advance by the foreign ministry.
“There is a balance of interest, there is a balance of commitments, there is mutual reciprocity involved. There are leverages that we can exert from our side also,” she said.
When asked if the leverages meant India would blacklist unwilling countries and ban nuclear reactor purchases from them, she said: “We will defend our interests to the hilt.”
India plans to raise it nuclear power generation capacity to 7.3 GW by end-March from the current 4.7 GW, and hopes to have over 20 GW of such capacity by 2020.
The billions of dollars in contracts up for grabs make India an attractive market for firms like General Electric, Westinghouse Electric - the United States-based arm of Japan’s Toshiba Corp , France’s Areva and Russia’s Rosatom.
“We have an expanding nuclear industry. This is a great attraction to the rest of the world,” Rao said.
Under NSG rules, to import nuclear goods, all nations except the five officially recognised atomic weapons states must usually place nuclear sites under safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.
But when Washington sealed a nuclear supply accord with India in 2008, it won a unique exemption after contentious negotiations. India gained access to technology and fuel while it was allowed to continue its nuclear weapons programme.
The US ambassador to India has said the waiver to New Delhi is safe and media reports have cited the French ambassador with similar comments.
India has said it is a responsible nuclear power and that it has an impeccable non-proliferation record that has earned it that exemption.
New thinking in Pakistan
Rao, who last month had unexpectedly successful talks with her Pakistani counterpart, said Islamabad’s view on militancy had “definitely been altered.”
She noted that Pakistan now spoke of the need to tackle non-state actors and safe havens and sanctuaries for militants.
“I think that is a concrete development,” she said.
The two nations have fought three wars, one of which divided into two the Himalayan region of Kashmir which both countries claim in full. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of aiding militants in Kashmir, a charge Pakistan denies.
Peace talks between the nuclear-armed rivals revived this year after they broke off in 2008 following a raid by Pakistan-based militants on Mumbai. But little concrete has emerged in solving the half-century old dispute between them.
“I am not trying to sound over optimistic about this,” Rao said. “I think we have to be realistic. We have to understand the difficulties in the terrain.”