It has taken steps to ensure harmonise export, procurement lists with those of NSG

India has refuted charges of involvement in covert nuclear trade, saying that a single suspect case of export of a dual use item to Iran was due to difference in perception.

Recently, a report by a noted think tank bracketed India with half a dozen countries, including Pakistan, China, North Korea and Syria as “illicit nuclear trade suppliers of concern.”

Normally, Indian diplomats do not react to such reports. They made an exception because recirculation of such charges could hurt India’s bid for membership in four nuclear export control regimes.

India is working extremely hard to convince members of these organisations because it has not signed a prerequisite for membership — the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — and does not plan to do so in the near future.

Officials say there is no difference of approach in addressing concerns raised in the Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) report quarterbacked by David Albright. But they differ with the report citing a specific case to support the inclusion of India among “illicit nuclear trade suppliers of concern.”

The case pertains to an Indian company sending four shipments of valves that finally made their way to Iran’s Arak Heavy Reactor. The company was within its rights not to seek a licence because its valves had nickel content of 10 to 15 per cent, whereas a licence is required for nickel content of over 60 per cent. This provision is identical in the India’s Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET) and the NSG lists, point out officials.

Legitimate export destinations

Second, the valves were exported to Germany and Turkey, both NSG members and legitimate export destinations. This aspect more than anything underlines the need for greater cooperation between transit countries such as Turkey and countries with high-tech capabilities of which India is one, said an official, because these countries are beginning to become targets of procurement to legitimate destinations. Also, one would have presumed that Turkey being a part of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) would also have done some due diligence,” said an official.

India maintains that over the past decade, it has taken several steps to ensure that “nothing slips the licensing list.” These include harmonising the export and procurement lists with those of the NSG and the Missile Technology Control Regime, implementing all the UNSC resolutions on Iran, North Korea and Syria, an extensive overhaul of own processes and out-reach to the industry and improved coordination between licensing and implementing agencies. India also enacted the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Act that gives authority to intercept suspect shipments of goods besides services and technology.

“It took us 10 to 15 years of sustained effort to get back into the civil nuclear mainstream and working with regulators. Why should we do a thing like that?” asked an official.

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