Atomic supplier states urged to hold line on India
Friday, 05 September 2008

Reuters, Washington- The Nuclear Suppliers Group should stay firm in rejecting a US bid to lift a ban on nuclear trade with India, experts said on Tuesday as an official document underscored gaps between the Americans and the Indians on key aspects of their landmark atomic deal.

The 45-nation group will meet on Thursday and Friday to review a new U.S. draft plan crafted after many members of the nuclear cartel blocked an American attempt last month to win a waiver for India without substantive conditions.
 
Adopting the U.S. draft would lift a 34-year embargo on nuclear trade for civilian purposes with the rising Asian economic power which has tested nuclear weapons and is not a member of the Non-Proliferation treaty.
 
Washington disarmament experts, echoing diplomats at the Vienna-based group, said the U.S. proposals to help seal its 2005 civilian nuclear energy deal with India were cosmetic and did not uphold nonproliferation standards.
 
"The current proposal is still unsound, it's still irresponsible, it should be rejected," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
 
"It is extraordinarily important for these states to stand their ground to protect the tattered nuclear nonproliferation system," he told analysts and reporters in Washington.
 
Kimball referred to the six nations and some 15 backers in the Nuclear Suppliers Group who had demanded amendments to ensure that Indian access to nuclear markets would not indirectly benefit its atomic bomb program. The group's decisions must be unanimous.
 
Indian inflexibility in insisting on a "clean" exemption from the group's rules made it "highly unlikely that the NSG will reach a decision at this week's meeting," he added.
 
Henry Sokolski, head of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said concessions by the group on major points would represent the "9/11 of nonproliferation" and effectively kill the treaty aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear arms.
 
"There is no way this deal can be approved by Congress in its current form without violating the Hyde Act," he said of the main U.S. legislation regarding the India nuclear pact.

STATE DEPARTMENT ANSWERS CONGRESS
 
In a sign of how keen Washington is to save a key Bush administration initiative, Undersecretary of State William Burns, the third-ranking U.S. diplomat, will lead the U.S. delegation to the Sept. 4-5 meeting in Vienna.
 
"We believe that this is something that is worthy of the NSG supporting," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. "We're going to continue to work within the group and work with individual states to try to move it forward."
 
The Arms Control Association made public on Tuesday a document in which the State Department answered questions from a senior U.S. congressman concerned with how the India nuclear deal squared with U.S. nonproliferation laws.
 
The legal and technical questions were submitted in October and the replies came in February, but were held under wraps, apparently because the U.S. answers differed from Indian interpretations of what the deal allows for, one expert said.
 
"There still exists a gap in the expectations or the interpretations of this deal, both from the Indian side and the U.S. side," said Sharon Squassoni, a nonproliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
 
For example, the official U.S. reply to the question of what would happen if India were to test a nuclear weapon was that a test would give Washington the right "to cease all nuclear cooperation with India immediately, including the supply of fuel, as well as to request the return of any items transferred from the United States."
 
"It's doubtful that the Indian government agrees with that interpretation," said Squassoni. She said there were similar potential disputes over the scope of nuclear cooperation and fuel supply assurances and said the group must clarify all gaps.

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