India firm on “unconditional” exemption

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M.R. Srinivasan
M.R. Srinivasan

T.S. Subramanian

Otherwise it may pull out, warns former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission

CHENNAI: The former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), M.R. Srinivasan, has said that if the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) does not give a “clean and unconditional” exemption from its guidelines for nuclear commerce with India, “there is a risk that India may pull out of the process.”

The 45-member NSG is meeting in Vienna on August 21-22.

In an interview here on Sunday, Dr. Srinivasan, who is a member of the AEC, said: “In other words, India has made as much concession as it can make and there is no more scope for it accepting any new condition. This is clear. The NSG friends should also realise that they cannot push India any further. What India is asking for, which we have described as clean and unconditional exemption, is a minimum requirement for us to proceed. If that does not happen, there is a danger of India pulling out. I sincerely hope it does not come to that.”

Asked whether the U.S. Congress approval of the 123 agreement between India and the U.S. would become redundant if the NSG gave a “clean and unconditional” exemption, he said if the NSG exemption was completely acceptable to India, then the U.S. Congress would meet to pass the 123 agreement.

India hoped that the U.S. Congress would pass the agreement on bi-partisan support. “If that does not get done, it will certainly put in doubt the U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation. Certainly, with the NSG approval and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] India-specific Safeguards Agreement [in place], we can go ahead with nuclear commerce with Russia, France and others,” Dr. Srinivasan said.

The question was whether after the NSG approval, India should proceed with the 123 agreement with the U.S. “It is a gentlemen’s agreement between India and the U.S. that we should have civil nuclear cooperation…. We should pursue [it],” he said. If, the Congress were to vote down the agreement, or introduce some pre-conditions, not favourable to India, for implementing it, “then, naturally, India will not go ahead,” he said.

“I hope this will not happen because there may be responsible action on the part of the U.S. Congress,” he added.

On what an additional protocol between India and the IAEA would entail, and whether inspections under it would be intrusive, he said initial discussions had been held. Under the earlier safeguards agreement, the IAEA would request the country to be allowed to inspect its facilities. It would give its consent and indicate the dates for inspection. Sometimes, this led to a loss of time. Under an additional protocol, one hoped to define time-tables which were more reasonable and prompt so that the objective of the inspection was fulfilled – that no material was diverted for making nuclear weapons, Dr. Srinivasan said.



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