In a carefully worded statement that conceals as much as it reveals, France has sought to reassure India that its recent endorsement of tighter rules for the export of enrichment and reprocessing equipment (ENR) at the Nuclear Suppliers Group “in no way undermines the parameters of our bilateral cooperation” in the nuclear field.

France is committed to the full implementation of its cooperation agreement on the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy signed on September 30, 2008, Ambassador of France to India Jérôme Bonnafont said in a statement on Friday. ``France confirms that this NSG decision in no way undermines the parameters of our bilateral cooperation”.

``Coming after the decision of exemption from the full-scope safeguards clause, adopted in favour of India in September 2008, it does not undermine the principles of this exemption,'' he added.

Mr. Bonnafont's articulation of France's position comes in the wake of an Indian demarche reminding Paris of the specific assurance on ENR President Nicolas Sarkozy gave Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2009 when the latter had expressed his disappointment at the G8 support for a new rule at the NSG banning ENR sales to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

However, the latest French statement is silent about that presidential pledge. Ambassador Bonnafont's declaration that the new NSG ban will not undermine the bilateral Franco-Indian agreement is a non-sequitur since that agreement does not cover ENR transfers anyway. And though his reassurance about the validity of the exemption the NSG gave India from its full scope safeguards clause will be welcomed by New Delhi, the Ambassador's silence about the new condition of NPT membership for ENR transfers will not be. Indian officials regard the new rule as tantamount to a rewriting of the 2008 bargain the nuclear cartel struck with India. Anil Kakodkar, who was head of India's Atomic Energy Commission when that deal wasreached has termed the NSG's latest decision a “betrayal.”

Implictly acknowledging the negative impact of the ENR ban on India, Mr. Bonnafont insisted this decision “does not target any country but is the fruit of prolonged discussions initiated in 2004”.

Indian officials do not agree, noting that even if the ENR discussions went back to 2004, France and others ought to have incorporated India's exemption into the new rules, in keeping with the letter and spirit of the 2008 clean waiver.

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