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Indian officials meet representatives of sceptic NSG countries

Ajay Kaul in Vienna | September 05, 2008 12:36 IST
Last Updated: September 05, 2008 12:37 IST

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As the Nuclear Suppliers Group inched towards forging a consensus on clearing a waiver to India for nuclear commerce, senior Indian officials have met representatives of the few sceptic member countries of the 45-member grouping to persuade them to give the green light so as to take the Indo-US nuclear deal forward.

The informal parleys ahead of the second day of the NSG discussions came as delegates to the nuclear cartel expressed optimism over a consensus to end the country's three-decade long nuclear isolation by Friday.

"We are close to a consensus. There may be a statement for the press today," a western diplomat, who refused to be identified either by name or country, said after the delegates considered a revised US draft waiver.

The draft waiver included provisions like the NSG chair informing the nuclear club about India's adherence to its guidelines after holding consultations with the country, a move aimed at pacifying countries having reservations.

Asked about the countries that have raised questions and expressed reservations over a clean waiver, the diplomat said they are positive and flexible.

"I believe we are making steady progress in this process and we will continue to make progress," US Undersecretary of State William Burns had said at the end of first round.

A number of countries like New Zealand [Images], Austria, Norway, Ireland, The Netherlands and Switzerland [Images] were not satisfied with the present draft and raised questions at the NSG meeting, particularly with regard to nuclear testing issue.

Meanwhile, senior Indian officials have met representatives of the few sceptic member countries of the NSG in an effort to persuade them to support the waiver for New Delhi [Images].

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and Prime Minister's Special Envoy Shyam Saran met diplomats of these countries soon after the deliberations of the opening day of the two-day meeting of the NSG concluded.

A NSG waiver is a key step in the operationalisation of the nuclear deal, which will go to the US Congress for approval once the atomic cartel gives the green light.

The Indian delegation met diplomats of these countries in an attempt to allay their apprehensions.

After the day-long deliberations, the NSG appeared to be close to a consensus but few members of the 45-nation grouping are still resisting the contentious issues whether or not there should be a ban on testing in the NSG waiver.

The sceptic countries want the NSG waiver to have a clause for termination of cooperation if India were to conduct a nuclear test.

India is strongly opposed to such conditions being included in the NSG exemption and a compromise language in the draft waiver is being worked out.

Diplomats are expected to informally hammer out an acceptable formulation which can be brought to the table on Friday.

Some of them were confident of a breakthrough without the NSG having to meet for the third time to consider the revised American draft.

The revised draft was prepared by the US in consultation with India after at least 15 countries sought amendments in the original text during the last NSG meeting on August 21-22.

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