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N-deal: 'US has given India a blank cheque'

July 31, 2008 02:53 IST

Ahead of the crucial Itentaional Atomic Energy Agency meeting on Friday, a group of arms control experts has urged both the atomic watchdog and Nuclear Suppliers Group to look at the Indo-US nuclear deal 'very carefully and remove all ambiguities'.

Sharon Squassoni of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace cautioned that the 'end game' does not stop with the agreement coming before the US Congress for approval, but it lies with the 45-member NSG.

"The reality is that the end game is the NSG. India will be able to trade with other states once the 45-member group gives a clean exemption for New Delhi [Images]," Squassoni told a press briefing on the subject at the National Press Club.

Ambassador Robert Gray, former US Representative at the Conference on Disarmament, said that the United States was walking away from a treaty signed by 178 nations and termed the agreement as an 'unmitigated disaster'.

"If any exemption has to come about, it perhaps would have to be addressed by those who initialled the Non Proliferation Treaty," he said.

"The United States has given India a blank cheque. Now we are assisting them (India) to cash the cheque in another Bank, the NSG," he said.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association and a long time critic of the civil nuclear cooperation between India and US, maintained that the exemption from the NSG is not going to be a 'quick one'.

The proposed India-IAEA safeguards agreement submitted to the Board contains several ambiguities and raises a number of fundamental questions, the Arms Control Association said.

"IAEA Board members should reject interpretations of the agreement that are contrary to the principle that nuclear materials and facilities that are subject to IAEA safeguards agreements should remain under safeguards in perpetuity," it said.

"It is absolutely essential that IAEA Board members obtain an official clarification of the legal effect of the agreement, and that the Government of India publicly agrees to terms and conditions under which safeguards on nuclear material and nuclear facilities subject to the agreement may be terminated, before the Board takes a decision."

Experts like Kimball have argued that India would have to clarify its position on various ambiguous provisions of the proposed agreement, particularly those dealing with the termination of safeguards, the relationship between corrective measures regarding commercial fuel supply arrangements and the continuity of safeguards.

"Without proper clarification, the agreement would undermine the credibility of the IAEA and set a number of precedents that may have far reaching adverse consequences the non-proliferation regime," Kimball said, adding that there is no reason that the Board of Governors should be rushed into a hasty decision on this proposed safeguards agreement given its far-reaching implications.

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