Nuclear exporters discuss allowing trade with India

Business Materials 21 August 2008 13:12 (UTC +04:00)

India's quest for foreign supplies for its nuclear power programme entered a new stage on Thursday, as nuclear-exporting countries gathered in Vienna to discuss an exemption from their rules to allow trade with India, dpa reported.

Several of the 45 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which sets international export control standards, are expected to propose in their meeting that the group clearly define which conditions India has to meet if it wants to access to international nuclear materials and technology.

Under its 2005 nuclear agreement with India, the United States pledged to lobby NSG members for a trade exemption, while India made several non-proliferation commitments.

While some diplomats said they were simply seeking to establish a clear link between New Delhi's commitments and the nuclear benefits the south-east Asian nation will reap, others want to include additional constraints in Washington's draft decision for the exporters' group.

Although diplomats said a decision would not come at this two-day meeting, but possibly in early September, they did not expect any exporting country to block the exemption.

One idea was to make nuclear exports to India subject to a review mechanism or to put a time limit on the exemption, a Western diplomat said.

Another question that needed to be addressed was what to do if India ever conducted another nuclear test, he said.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed in reaction to India's test of an atom bomb in 1974, which it had built using imported reactor technology.

Some group members were also considering to demand that exports of technology for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing should stay prohibited for India, as it can be used not only for fuelling power plants, but also for making bombs.

Currently, nuclear export rules prevent shipments to India, because the country has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and Scandinavian states are among the countries that are most active in seeking conditions for allowing nuclear trade with India.

An Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon is also in Vienna to lobby Nuclear Suppliers Group members, but will not take part in the deliberations.