It is sure India will place more facilities under IAEA safeguards

Proving the adage that good news and bad news tend to come together, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) began consideration of an American proposal to enrol India as a member even as the 46-nation cartel voted to ban the sale of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies to it.

A statement issued at the end of the group's meeting in the Netherlands said, inter alia, that it had adopted new guidelines on ENR sales and “discussed the NSG relationship with India.”

Prior to the meeting, the United States circulated a confidential “thought paper” among NSG members on the “process” that could get India membership of the body. It suggested two options that would help New Delhi, an outlier, meet most of the membership criteria.

The confidential paper says there are two ways India can be admitted to the NSG. The first is to evolve a criterion for admission. This means tailoring the factors to be considered to “accurately describe India's position” as a non-proliferator and contributor to attempts at disarmament.

The second is to recognise that the factors that should be considered for grant of new membership as per the NSG's procedural arrangement should not be taken to be mandatory criteria. “The procedural arrangement does not require that a candidate meet all of the stated criteria. For that reason NSG members could simply take a decision by consensus to admit India based on its support for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and behaviour,” the U.S. has suggested.

The NSG admits new members by consensus on the basis of a ‘procedural arrangement,' which stipulates that the proposed candidate must be a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or a regional nuclear weapons free zone, place all its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards if it is a non-nuclear weapon state, be in a position to supply items on the NSG control lists, and adhere to the group's guidelines and non-proliferation efforts.

India's membership of the NSG is going to be difficult because this will be the first time the group will consider the case of a country, which has not signed the NPT. Israel and Pakistan are the two other countries, besides India, that have not signed the NPT, while North Korea, which signed, has since walked out.

The U.S. backing for Indian membership of the NSG and other multilateral arms control bodies follows the public commitment made by U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit here in November last year.

Countries opposed to India's membership argue that allowing India to join the NSG could trigger similar demands from Pakistan and Israel.

In its paper, the U.S. has said that it believes the NSG will be justified in assessing India to be a like minded partner based on the steps it has taken and will take to separate its military and civil nuclear programme.

The U.S. is also confident that India will place additional facilities under IAEA safeguards and implement responsible export control policies enforcement. “We recognise that the admission of India to the NSG is a complex issue and will require a thorough discussion before members may be ready to take a decision,” noted the paper.

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