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NSG could give India waiver before March: sources
Lalitha Vaidyanathan in Vienna | January 13, 2008 17:14 IST
Ahead of a key meeting between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency on a safeguards agreement for the implementation of the India-United States civil nuclear agreement, the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers' Group is apparently optimistic about giving a waiver to New Delhi before March to allow nuclear commerce with it.
It is learnt that even countries like Switzerland [Images] and New Zealand [Images], which had earlier resisted the move, had come around and softened their stand and in fact were working towards making a written draft on the exemption to enable trade in nuclear material and technology with India.
The NSG members, who met in Vienna last week, were optimistic about completing the process of giving waiver to India without much opposition before March, sources said.
The draft paper on exemption to India by NSG was a crucial step towards operationalisation of the Indo-US deal, they said. India has been demanding a clean and unconditional exemption from the NSG.
Meanwhile, India and the IAEA are working towards readying an agreed text of the India-specific safeguards at a meeting next week here.
The Indian team will be leaving for Vienna on January 16 and according to the External Affairs Ministry, this consultative meeting could possibly be the final one.
"The draft has to be discussed by the UPA-Left committee in India and should be ready to be placed before the board of governors of the IAEA in March," IAEA sources said.
India has said that it hopes to wrap up the safeguards agreement with the IAEA later this month before approaching the NSG.
The two sides had failed to reach an agreed text in the last round earlier this month, with the issue of India's right to hold its strategic reserve to cater to lifetime supply to its civilian nuclear plants being a sticking point.
There was also no meeting point on the issue of corrective measures to be undertaken in the event of stoppage of fuel to power plants, sources said.
"We hope to do another round (of negotiations) in the middle of January in Vienna. We hope to wrap it up. The discussions are proceeding smoothly", Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters in New Delhi on Friday.
Only when the IAEA prepares a final agreed text, which has to be cleared by its Board of Governors, the US could go ahead with its talks with the 45-member Nuclear Supplier's Group to get a clean and unconditional exemption for India to do nuclear commerce internationally.
Once the IAEA agreed text and the draft on waiver for India by NSG, one of the pre-requisites for operationalisation of the deal first mooted in July 2005, are ready, they have to be finally approved by the US Congress.
The US lawmakers are silent on the issue due to hectic campaigning for the next Presidential elections.