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Home > News > PTI

N-deal's not an arms control agreement: India

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington, DC | June 26, 2007 10:00 IST

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Stressing that the India-United States civil nuclear deal is not an arms control agreement or a trade off for New Delhi's strategic programme, a top Indian negotiator said there are not too many gaps in coming to the final understanding and that the two countries are closing it.

"Basically, I do not think there are many problems in the gaps. The issue is how you take broad political principles and make them into legal language," Indian High Commissioner to Singapore S Jaishankar said at the Carnegie Endowment Conference International Non-proliferation Conference in Washington.

"The translation of the March 2006 and the July 2005 understandings into the 123-Agreement (An agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the US and any other nation), it is really easier said than done because you are working on a legal document with a worst-case contingency approach.

"You have to find very exacting, very rigorous language to reflect that. And that is where the challenge lies," Jaishankar, a top member of the negotiating team, said.

The Indian envoy was participating in a panel discussion on 'Forging Non-Proliferation Consensus after Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation'.

The top Indian envoy may be officially participating at the Carnegie Conference but privately he is said to be carrying on the dialogue on the 123-Agreement meeting in the sidelines with senior officials of the Bush Administration dealing with the issue.

Jaishankar made it clear that New Delhi was looking for a clean and straightforward exemption to the Nuclear Suppliers' Group guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing.

"Our understanding with the US is that we will work with it not to transfer enrichment or reprocessing technologies to states that don't have, the operative part is don't have. We have been reprocessing since 1964 and we have been enriching for at least about ten years," Jaishankar said.

So, we will not fall in our eyes into a category of states that these technologies would not be available as per the current international consensus in the making, he added.

The Indian diplomat stressed, that everything India was willing to do was to be covered by the July 18 statement.

"There is no commitment outside that statement. We frankly don't envisage anything outside that statement," he said.

"There is a certain restraint on the part of India -- minimum deterrent and no first use are the part of that restraint," he said, adding India's commitment to Article 6 cannot be doubted.

"One of the reasons we did not sign the NPT was that Article 6 was not strong enough. We are officially committed to a world free of nuclear weapons," Jaishankar said.

"To confuse the strategic restraint as it sort of evolved during the course of the last administration -- is really mixing apples with oranges," he said.

"With regards to full scope safeguards, as far as we are concerned we have an understanding with the administration," Jaishankar remarked making the point that Bush Administration has indeed consulted the US Congress, its allies and members of the NSG.

Jaishankar argued that India does not deny that there is a consensus on the issue of non-proliferation.

"We are in a position to contribute to that consensus," Jaishankar said going on to make the point that the evolving issues have to be seen in a larger political context.

India cannot be expected to be a partner and a target at the same time. India brings value to the consensus at a time when it is under serious test," he said adding it would appear that while there are many elements that constitute a consensus, there are also aspects on which the international community is still significantly divided.

The top diplomat argued that the US-India civilian nuclear deal is a significant departure from orthodoxy and is critical to see what was within and without of the agreed framework.

"The understanding focuses exclusively on civilian nuclear energy cooperation. On the Indian side, there is no expectation that the agreement would contribute to its weapons programme. We must be equally clear that this is not an arms control agreement," he said.

Suggestions have been made that US negotiators could have demanded tougher conditions including a moratorium on fissile material production. In that situation, there would have been no agreement, he added.

Making clear that India's strategic programme was clearly outside the purview of the Indo-US understanding, he said, "Any attempt to intrude into that domain or determine externally what India regards as its national prerogative would obviously undermine the basis of the agreement."

Jaishankar asked the gathering to do not let orthodoxy and intellectual rigidity undermine a path breaking initiative of such great potential. "Appreciate the contribution that India can make to the revival of global nuclear industry and create a climate for more confident and predictable nuclear trade with India," the top Indian envoy said.

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