Modi prepares to fast track NSG issues

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has prepared the ground for his crucial bilateral meetings in September focusing on nuclear issues – specifically membership of the Nuclear Supplier Groups – during his talks with Prime Minister Abe of Japan, Premier Tony Abbott of Australia, Chinese President Xi Jinping and finally U.S. President Barack Obama.

In Mumbai this week, Mr. Modi addressed scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). At the classified briefing, he told them to keep to targets of tripling nuclear power generation by 2023, and also indicating a greater role for private players while saying “nuclear energy must be commercially viable and competitive with other sources of clean energy in the long run.”

The Prime Minister’s speech indicated that the government now plans to go full steam ahead with plans for nuclear energy production; plans that had been on the back burner in the last two years of the UPA regime, especially after local protests over the projects in Kudankulam and Jaitapur.

The strategic dialogue with U.S. secretary of state John Kerry next week is expected to work on ironing out differences with Washington even as meetings with visiting Russian Deputy prime minister and French Foreign Minister addressed the issues of suppliers liability. But the government isn’t stopping there.

Sources tell The Hindu that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plans to visit India for a two day trip in September is centred around the Australian agreement to sell uranium to India. An Australian government delegation was in Delhi July 20 to tie up his programme. Mr. Modi will also visit Australia for the G-20 summit in November this year.

Meanwhile, Indian and Japanese officials are working on the possibility of announcing a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement when Mr. Modi travels to Tokyo for talks on September 1and 2 with Mr. Abe. With expectations high of the two leaders, who share a camaraderie, fast-tracking negotiations, local Japanese papers have been urging Mr. Abe to obtain a commitment from India on signing the NPT and fissile material cut-offs first. Although that is unlikely to happen, India will certainly be up against the ‘non-proliferation’ lobby in its quest to build up nuclear power as an alternate source of energy.

An even bigger stumbling block could be China, whose support for Pakistan’s nuclear programme makes it an unlikely backer for India’s pitch for NSG membership, and President Xi’s visit to India will be equally significant, as all 48 members of the NSG must approve India's membership.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 1:57:17 AM |

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