Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: NSG challenge

NSG challenge

  • The Nuclear Suppliers Group may well have been trying to tighten the general rules for the international transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology (ENR) but its insistence on membership of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as a condition of supply has effectively punched a hole in the historic waiver India negotiated with the cartel in 2008. This reversal will, of course, politically damage Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who promised Parliament in 2006 that his government would start placing Indian civil nuclear facilities under international safeguards only after all international restrictions in the nuclear field had been lifted. But a bigger challenge confronts our diplomatic establishment, which now faces the task of ensuring that the mutual commitments undertaken by India and its nuclear partners are implemented in full. Ever since the July 2005 joint statement with the United States, official India has asserted that all the promises and commitments it was making the separation of its military and civilian nuclear sectors, the acceptance of international safeguards over its civilian facilities, the placing of huge commercial orders, etc. Were in exchange for full civil nuclear cooperation. The bilateral agreements signed with the US, France, and Russia, and the NSG statement on India that emerged after two bruising rounds of negotiations in 2008, were all drafted accordingly. If one side now insists on making unilateral changes, this will be a breach of trust.

  • Indias initial response to last weeks setback at the NSG has been guarded. It has indicated to the three major reactor-supplying nations that they must stand by their earlier commitments. But if they baulk or prevaricate, New Delhi will have to exercise the leverage it has. The US, France, and Russia are not doing India a favour by agreeing to sell nuclear reactors. The bill for this equipment will run eventually into tens of billions of dollars. India has promised to buy 10, 000 MW worth of reactors from the US alone. Then there are the defence purchases the country is slated to make. Smart diplomacy would have meant leveraging these assets in advance. The ENR writing has been on the wall since November 2008, when a clean text of the new restrictions first emerged in draft form. Unfortunately, the United Progressive Alliance regime soft-pedalled the issue, preferring to demarche its partners in private rather than making a big deal out of the fact that the terms of the nuclear deal were being arbitrarily redrawn.

  • Even today, the ENR issue is not a lost cause: Like the nuclear embargo itself, this latest unjust restriction on India can be reversed. But only if the government has the political stomach to play hardball.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India