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Updated: July 6, 2011 04:50 IST

NSG waiver unaffected, France assures India

Special Correspondent
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Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and French Ambassador to India Jérôme Bonnafont exchange files for ratification of the cooperation agreement between the two countries on the development of peaceful use of nuclear energy in New Delhi. File photo
PTI Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and French Ambassador to India Jérôme Bonnafont exchange files for ratification of the cooperation agreement between the two countries on the development of peaceful use of nuclear energy in New Delhi. File photo

With India insisting on concrete assurances from all its nuclear partners, France has again sought to allay Indian concerns about the sanctity of the waiver it received in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s export ban.

“With longstanding French support, India has been granted a clean exemption by the NSG, allowing for full civilian nuclear cooperation”, Ambassador Jérôme Bonnafont said in a statement here on Tuesday, hissecond in a week. “This exemption reflects the unique situation of India and constitutes a historical achievement. Therefore, in the French view, nothing in the existing and future guidelines shall be interpreted as detracting from that exemption or reducing the ambition of our bilateral cooperation.”

India has objected to the new guidelines adopted by the NSG last month on the export of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment which include membership in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as a condition for supply. Having secured a waiver from the NSG’s catch-all full-scope safeguards requirement in 2008, New Delhi sees the new guidelines as a rollback.

The latest French reassurance that “nothing in the existing and future guidelines shall be interpreted as detracting from that exemption” will likely be seen by South Block as an improvement over the guarded statement Mr. Bonnafont issued earlier. On July 1, he had said only that the new ENR rule “does not undermine the principles of [the 2008] exemption.”

Although the Franco-Indian bilateral agreement does not explicitly provide for the transfer of ENR, Mr. Bonnafont’s latest statement also reiterates the inclusive nature of that text. “This agreement aims at expanding our existing cooperation to ‘full civil nuclear cooperation for the development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes’...,” he said. The ambassador emphasised that this “covers all aspects of a civilian nuclear program, including nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear fuel and nuclear waste management, and scientific cooperation”.

ENR is covered by the ‘nuclear fuel cycle’, diplomatic sources told The Hindu, though such cooperation is not on the bilateral agenda for the present.

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As conceded by diplomatic sources to The Hindu, ENR is not currently on the bilateral agenda with France. It never should be! Daryl Kimball has noted [in a comment to a recent article] that NSG waiver of 2008 for India does not apply to paras 6 & 7 of then existing guidelines, which prohibit ENR exports. If true, we should interpret the present French assurances in that light. During the 123 and NSG negotiations, Indian interlocutors, wanting to claim success, resorted to imprecise, multi-interpretable wording in the agreements. I recollect there were a lot of discussions in the media then, including articles by Mr S Varadarajan on this aspect. It may have given short-term publicity to the UPA Govt then; but such tactics are bound to rebound as NSG can countries can deny what we want to buy and yet claim adherence to their interpretation of the deals. Best way forward now for us is to stop implementing the deal and subsequent agreements and go it alone.

from:  Sanatanan
Posted on: Jul 6, 2011 at 14:32 IST

A welcome announcement but it is not over until the fat lady actually sings. Let us wait until actual transfer of ENR technology.

from:  Krishna Dammanna
Posted on: Jul 6, 2011 at 02:37 IST

It is obvious that France has no buyers for it's untested cancer-causing nuclear plants and is desperate for the business it can get from India.It will probably sign ANY deal with our government and dump all it's old reactors, nicely shined up on India, since a recent poll taken in France shows 77% of the French population are demanding phasing out of nuclear power and the next administration will be voted in only on basis of this promise. It is true we have 30% of the world's thorium but thorium reactors also need uranium. Thorium mines in Malaysia have caused high incidence of birth defects and leukaemia in towns around the mines and the government is now facing opposition to these mines. Knowing our village people in India (who have more horse sense than our nuclear scientists,) any expense in setting up thorium mines will be a waste because within a year or two, the mines will have to close down from agitations and village anger over birth defects and high incidence of cancer.

from:  Angela Alvares
Posted on: Jul 5, 2011 at 23:37 IST
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