India in a TRAP

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) did not agree to opening nuclear trade with India because eight countries did not allow it. A US draft was circulated to NSG members that had about two weeks to study it and to share its content with their respective governments. But at the meeting in Vienna - it is reported - Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland held up discussions over the US draft suggesting a change in NSG guidelines to accommodate India.

For the 123 agreement to get operational, India needs an exemption from the NSG, which is pretty firm in its resolve not to do business with countries that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India is not a signatory to the NPT as it says the treaty is discriminatory and it divides the world into nuclear weapon ‘haves' and ‘have-nots'.

The NPT came into force in 1968. Since then India has acquired nuclear weapons. Despite this the US signed an agreement with India. To put the agreement into practice, the US promised to use its clout as a founding member of the NSG to convince the group to compromise its strict rules to open nuclear commerce with India. The US is keen on being the first to begin nuclear commerce with India. The US cannot do that till the NSG allows it. This perhaps is the Catch 22.

The buzz in Vienna is that the US is now making sure that soon after the waiver (which it hopes to achieve) to India, the US Congress will give its okay to the agreement. The non proliferation agenda of the Hyde Act requires that India first sign the NPT. India is not likely to do so. Knowing India's stand for an unconditional waiver, the 45-nation NSG, that has no permanent office of its own, met in Vienna only to disperse after two days without arriving at a consensus. 

The NSG will meet again on September 4 and 5 to discuss a new draft that the US will table before it. The questions being asked here and in Europe are - what will be so new in the new draft that will not pose the same problems the NSG already faces? Will the new draft require India to sign the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)? Will there be a condition that nuclear supplies will automatically stop without review if India makes a ‘wrong' move in the eyes of the NSG? Or, enrichment and reprocessing technology will not be available to India? If yes, then none of the above ‘conditions' are acceptable to India.

Which makes one wonder: Is it the above mentioned eight countries blocking the civil nuclear cooperation between India and the US, or is it the US itself?