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Has Hillary really disowned U.S. policy on ENR sales to India?

Siddharth Varadarajan

One stand in Delhi, another at NSG

U.S. draft lays down NPT precondition

Clinton statement seen as U.S. buying time

NEW DELHI: On November 20, 2008, the U.S. threw its full weight behind new draft rules at the Nuclear Suppliers Group that ban the sale of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) items to India. The NSG draft, ‘Revised Paragraph 6 and 7 of INFCIRC 254/Part I,’ lists seven criteria that must be fulfilled before an NSG member authorises the supply of ENR facilities, equipment and technology.

According to a copy of the confidential text obtained by the Arms Control Association (ACA) and accessed by The Hindu, the very first of these criteria, numbered 6(a)(i), is that the recipient must be “a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and is in full compliance with its obligations under the Treaty.” The second is that it has “signed, ratified and is implementing a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA,” something India cannot do because it has nuclear weapons.

Only four countries are not party to the NPT: India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. But since the existing NSG guidelines prohibiting nuclear transfers to non-NPT members have been waived only for India, the proposed restriction directly targets New Delhi.

Though the draft was introduced by the Bush administration, the Obama administration got the G-8 to begin implementing it on a national basis this month. If approved by the 45-nation cartel, the clean waiver India got last September would apply only to nuclear reactors, components and fuel and no longer to ENR items. It would be, in the words of Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar, a “breach of trust” and “contrary to the spirit” of the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement.

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked on Monday whether the U.S.-sponsored NSG move undermined the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, her answer took everyone by surprise. “As I understand [the] question, it was whether we oppose the transfer of processing and enrichment technology, well, clearly we do not,” she said. “We have just completed a civil nuclear deal with India. So if it is done within the appropriate channels and carefully safeguarded, as it is in the case of India, then that is appropriate.”

“Ms. Clinton either misspoke or was badly advised about U.S. policy on the transfer of sensitive ENR technology,” ACA director Daryl Kimball told The Hindu. “The purpose and intent of the G-8 policy — and the pending November 2008 NSG proposal — is indeed to bar ENR technologies to states [like India] that have not signed the NPT …”

At an off-the-record interaction with Indian analysts here on Tuesday, a senior U.S. official initially said “India won’t be affected” by the draft NSG rules. But he added he was on “thin ground” and that Bob Einhorn, Ms. Clinton’s special adviser on non-proliferation, was better placed to clarify U.S. policy.

While Indian officials, who say they still have not seen the NSG draft, suspect Ms. Clinton misspoke, they believe India should hold her to the position. Indian analysts, however, see her remarks as aimed at buying time. “It would have been very inopportune for Clinton to rule out ENR transfers while in Delhi. That would have injected a note of controversy just as the PM was earmarking two sites for U.S.-supplied nuclear reactors to India,” said the former Foreign Secretary, Kanwal Sibal. “The U.S. will continue to obfuscate the issue so that the prospects of the U.S. nuclear industry in India are not hurt. The line would be that we are not ruling out anything and that after the reprocessing negotiations are completed, other issues will be taken up.”

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