After the shock of L'Aquilla, where the G-8 in 2009 agreed to implement a ban on the sale of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment and technology to countries like India which do not accept comprehensive international safeguards on their nuclear programme, the Manmohan Singh government has been actively lobbying to protect its position on getting access to sensitive nuclear technologies with individual supplier nations.

In its recent interactions with the Nuclear Suppliers Group ‘troika', India suggested that an asterisk be added to the cartel's draft new rules on ENR transfers exempting the country from the proposed requirement of membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It also raised the issue with Russia, France and the United States, countries with which it has signed nuclear cooperation agreements in the wake of the ‘clean' exemption granted to India by the NSG in September 2008.

NSG rules prohibit the sale of nuclear equipment or material to non-NPT signatories. In 2008, the 46-nation group voted unanimously to relax that condition for India in exchange for a range of non-proliferation commitments. But draft rules framed in November 2008 will unilaterally remove ENR sales from the purview of that exemption.

For the past two years, consensus eluded the NSG on the ENR issue because some members states — notably Argentina, Brazil and South Africa — objected to other elements of the new restrictions. These three countries do not support the U.S.-inspired proposal that adherence to the Additional Protocol — a more intrusive form of international monitoring not mandated by the NPT — be a precondition for ENR imports.

But NSG diplomats say the U.S. has had some success in building a consensus over the past few months and that major elements of the ENR ban, including the requirement of NPT membership, could well be adopted during the cartel's plenary in Christ Church this week.

Among India's nuclear partners, only France has given a commitment to provide India ENR equipment. Though the bilateral agreement does not provide for such transfers, Indian officials say President Nicholas Sarkozy gave a verbal assurance to this effect to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Paris last year.

Keywords: nuclear fuelNPTNSGENR