New ENR norms won't hit waiver to India: Russia

Russia has assured India that the new international restrictions on transfer of sensitive nuclear technologies will not affect the clean waiver it was granted in 2008.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the new guidelines adopted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last month to ban the sale of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology to non-NPT signatories would not apply to India.

“The decision to strengthen ‘sensitive' nuclear export controls adopted at an NSG plenary session in 2011 does not affect in any way the September 2008 decision of the Group to unfreeze peaceful nuclear cooperation with India,” the spokesman said in a statement posted on the Ministry website late on Thursday.

It is for the first time Moscow has clearly stated its position on the new NSG guidelines. The statement was issued the same day Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov returned from Washington, where he had wide-ranging talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was received by President Barack Obama. The talks also covered issues of nuclear non-proliferation.

Immediately after the June 20-24 NSG meeting in Noordwijk, Holland, Moscow was evasive on whether India was exempted from the new ENR restrictions.

Full-scale cooperation

Meanwhile, India's Ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra said Moscow had just restated its earlier commitment to full-scale nuclear cooperation with New Delhi.

Mr. Malhotra told The Hindu that the Foreign Ministry's statement merely “reiterated Russia's well-known support for India's NSG membership and the “clean exemption' given to India by the NSG in September 2008.”

“It also reaffirms that Russia will effectively implement our bilateral agreements in this sphere. We appreciate it,” the Ambassador said.

In its new statement, Moscow reiterated its commitment to the March 2010 bilateral accord on unrestricted peaceful nuclear cooperation, which called for a separate agreement on ENR transfer, and the December 2010 joint statement by the leaders of the two countries.

“We are ready to continue their effective implementation,” Mr. Lukashevich said.

He recalled that Russia had been consistently working to ensure India's membership in the 45-member NSG.

“We have repeatedly raised the issue of establishing regular contacts between the NSG and India and creating a mechanism to allow New Delhi to participate in the development of export control norms in the nuclear field,” Mr. Lukashevich said.

“In Noordwijk, we reaffirmed our strong commitment and willingness to ensure full participation of India in NSG,” he said.

“Russia views nuclear cooperation with India as a pivotal element in bilateral strategic partnership.”

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