Two years after being made to jump through a hoop to win an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group's export ban, India is bracing itself for a double blow. At its plenary meeting in New Zealand beginning on Monday, the 46-nation cartel may turn a blind eye to China's plan to supply new reactors to Pakistan, handing Islamabad a free pass. The NSG is also likely to adopt fresh restrictions on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment and technology, thereby diluting New Delhi's hard won ‘clean' waiver.

The NSG members undertake to supply nuclear material and equipment only to countries which let the IAEA monitor all their nuclear facilities. Apart from reasons of safety, the only exception to this rule is if the supply is pursuant to pre-existing commitments.

China joined the NSG in May 2004. In a formal “declaration of existing projects” made at the time, it told the group of its 1991 cooperation agreement with Pakistan under which it had supplied a 300 MWe reactor at Chashma and had just undertaken to supply an additional 325 MWe reactor there. It did not, at the time, speak of ‘grandfathering' any additional reactors under the 1991 agreement.

In recent months, however, the China National Nuclear Corporation has confirmed plans for building two new reactors at Chashma, a move that runs counter to those assurances. The supply would also violate commitments made to the IAEA in 2004 that “China will, once admitted into NSG, act in accordance with [its] guidelines.”

While conceding their “interest and concern” in the matter, Indian officials say it is for NSG members to object to China's proposal and specify the conditions Islamabad must satisfy before being eligible for nuclear commerce. The Chinese side was asked about the proposed transfer during the visit to Beijing of President Pratibha Patil, but official sources denied India had told China not to go ahead with the deal.

On ENR, Hungary, currently chair of the NSG, told India in March that consensus on the new rules was still proving elusive. In the light of the September 2008 waiver, Indian officials had suggested exempting India from the applicability of draft rules banning ENR sales to non-NPT countries. But this proposal has found few takers. And now there are signs the U.S. and others are is pushing for the adoption of the ENR ban during the upcoming New Zealand plenary. The new rules will “very probably be approved,” an NSG diplomatic source told The Hindu on Sunday.