Much to India's relief, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on Friday failed to adopt new guidelines that would have led to the denial of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology to countries like itself that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In a statement issued at the end of its two-day plenary meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, the NSG only said, its members “agreed to continue considering ways to further strengthen the guidelines dealing with the transfer of ENR technologies.”

The NSG statement also euphemistically says, “The Group took note of the briefings on developments concerning non-NSG States [and] agreed on the value of ongoing consultation and transparency.”

Diplomatic sources told TheHindu this was a reference to China's desire to sell two new reactors to Pakistan at Chashma in addition to the two that were contracted and approved by the NSG in 2004 as part of the country's pre-existing commitments.

Though no details about the discussions on the Chinese proposal were available, the sources said, the NSG statement's reference to the need for more consultation and transparency suggested a lack of consensus on the issue and perhaps even a face-off.

China has suggested the two new reactors were “grandfathered” by its 1991 agreement with Pakistan and should thus be exempted from the NSG ban on sales to non-NPT countries. Other NSG members have responded by noting that the Chinese side made no mention of a third and fourth reactor when they talked about the Chashma-1 and 2 when they joined the group.

On the ENR issue, consensus on the draft new rules proved elusive, thanks to strenuous lobbying by India and resistance from within the 46-nation cartel by a handful of countries such as Turkey. In the run-up to the Christchurch meeting, when it became clear the U.S. was trying to get the new restrictions approved, India worked on Russia, France and also Germany to ensure a deferment.

Official sources said New Delhi sent a clear signal to its friends and partners that the NSG's September 2008 exemption must remain unaffected by any changes adopted since that decision was the product of mutual undertakings by both the NSG and India.

Apart from the NPT rule for the ENR sales, the U.S. has been pushing for mandatory adherence to the Additional Protocol as well as tighter restrictions on the sharing of sensitive technologies with countries that have not so far mastered enrichment or reprocessing.

These conditions were initially opposed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada and South Africa. Canada and Argentina have since reportedly fallen into line but Turkey, which is only now embarking on a civil nuclear programme on the basis of cooperation with Russia and South Korea, does not want to be disadvantaged by tougher rules.