NSG meets; adjourns for Menon's briefing

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Washington, Aug 21: The Nuclear Suplliers Group is meeting on Thursday, Aug 21 morning to decide whether to make it easy for India or not...The NSG will convene in the morning but adjourn at 11 am so that members can attend a special briefing by Shivshankar Menon. “We will make our presentation, explaining our policy, restating our bottom line and answering any questions," an Indian official said.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon held a series of meetings here Wednesday, Aug 20 with diplomats from member countries to press for the speedy adoption of the draft proposal without any changes. Describing the series meetings with a range of 'friendly' countries including existing and prospective suppliers like Russia and France as well as South Africa and Brazil as 'productive', Indian officials told sources the picture that was emerging on the eve of the NSG"s plenary consultation was one of quiet support for the proposal.

In sharp constradiction, the Bush Administration officials believe that an agreement on providing waiver to India will not be reached in the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting on Thursday, Aug 21, as the American proposal to exempt India from restriction on nuclear trade has aroused scepticism from several members of the 45-nation NSG.

American diplomats said on Wednesday, Aug 20 that it is unlikely that a deal will be reached in two-day meetings that begins in Vienna. Instead, they said, a second NSG meeting probably will need to be held next month, leaving little time for final approval by the US Congress in September session.

Both India and the United States have lobbied for approval of a landmark civil nuclear deal. But the NSG, which governs trade in reactors and uranium, operates by consensus, allowing even small nations to block or significantly amend any agreement. "The US and India are certainly using strong-arms tactics but reports that a decision on the proposal could occur this week don"t appear to match with the reality that many states of the 45-member NSG group still have significant concerns," said Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association.

Indian officials have warned nations that a failure to support the nuclear deal could harm their ties with India, but US officials said they increasingly believe an agreement will not be reached this week, the Washington Post reported.

The Hyde Act, a 2006 bill that gave preliminary approval to the Indo-US pact, officially requires that Congress be in 30 days of continuous session to consider the deal. But Congress cannot take up the agreement until the NSG passes it, and lawmakers plan to adjourn for the year on September 26.

The nuclear pact -- and a US draft proposal to exempt India from the NSG trade rules has aroused protest from non proliferation specialists, who argue that it will greatly weaken efforts to control the spread of nuclear materials.

But the United States has won over some sceptical nations by arguing that increasing India"s access to nuclear power will help ease global warming, diplomats said.

Even if the nuclear biggies like France, Russia, UK and US want to start business with India, many countries who see themselves as the guardians of the existing non-proliferation order, want to protect that order from adventurers like India.

But just as there are conscientious objectors, many more countries have swung over the past couple of years to support the deal.

More than 150 nongovernmental organizations and non proliferation experts from 24 countries last week sent a letter to NSG members appealing for significant conditions to be placed on India, such as promising to terminate trade if New Delhi resumed nuclear testing.

OneIndia News

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