Breach of faith

Breach of faith

The new guidelines adopted by the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) at its plenary meeting in Noordwijk in the Netherlands last week on transfer of sensitive nuclear material among countries will effectively nullify the clean waiver given to India by the group in 2008.

According to the new guidelines countries which are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and which do not have fullscope safeguards will not be entitled to transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies (ENR).

This goes against the letter and spirit of the civil nuclear deal India signed with the US and the agreements India had with the NSG. The difficult and detailed negotiations India had with the US and the nuclear suppliers’ cartel had exempted India from these conditions and their unilateral return now would mean a breach of faith.

According to the civil nuclear deal India had made a number of commitments like separation of civil and military nuclear reactors, adoption of safeguards and allowing international inspection of its civilian reactors. The government had also announced that these commitments were being made on the condition of the lifting of all nuclear restrictions. But the government’s expectations have been belied.

Outwardly the NSG was trying to make the rules for transfer of sensitive nuclear material tougher. Since nuclear business with countries like Pakistan, Israel and North Korea is already banned, the new regulations affect only India. It is surprising that the US which took the initiative for the nuclear deal was fully agreeable with the new guidelines.

Ironically it has also made the patently unacceptable claim that the new guidelines are not at variance with the earlier clean waiver got by India and its rights under the civil nuclear deal.

India will now have to work for neutralising the effect of the new guidelines. It had entered into bilateral agreements with the US, France and Russia for supply of nuclear reactors on the express understanding that there would not be any restriction on transfer of ENR technology.

These countries will have to be made to honour this commitment. India should refuse to honour its part of the deals if they are unable to do so. India should be able to have its way since they have a big financial stake in nuclear relations with the country.

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