Notwithstanding new NSG rules, ‘clean’ exemption of 2008 must prevail

The Nuclear Suppliers Group may have decided to ban enrichment and reprocessing technology and equipment (ENR) sales to countries outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but India will continue to insist that its partners fully implement the 2008 “clean” NSG waiver for the country and all bilateral agreements, official sources told The Hindu on Saturday.

Under the terms of the 2008 waiver, NSG members are allowed to make ENR transfers to India.

Speaking on background because the text of the 46-nation supplier group's latest decision is yet to be received and properly studied, the sources sought to underline the fact that the India-U.S. nuclear agreement, the 2008 “clean” exemption by the NSG and India's agreements with other countries such as France and Russia all rested on the foundation of “mutual commitments.”

If India's partners had committed themselves to providing full civil nuclear cooperation, India had promised to implement a number of non-proliferation conditions, change its liability law and place commercial orders for reactors worth billions of dollars.

The sources said all mutual commitments, whether in the NSG decision of 2008 on India or in those contained in bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements, should be respected and fully implemented. “India will do so,” they stressed, “and we expect the same from others as well.”

Though the Obama administration's statement that the new ENR restrictions would not “detract” from the 2008 NSG exception may be hard to square with reality, Indian officials say it is “reassuring” that the State Department has reiterated the U.S. “commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation” and its support for the “clean” NSG waiver. India takes these assurances very seriously and will insist on their fulfilment.

Indeed, India now expects other key suppliers such as France and Russia to be even more forthcoming in the reiteration of their commitment to implement the NSG waiver. This is all the more so, given the personal pledge President Nicolas Sarkozy made to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009 that France would not be bound by any G8 or NSG ban on the sale of ENR to India. As for Russia, the March 2010 bilateral agreement itself says the two countries “shall conclude a separate agreement for [ENR transfers],” and one round of negotiations has already been held. Therefore, the Russians too have an obligation to clarify their national position in the wake of the NSG's latest decision.

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