Friday, September 5, 2008

The Group of Six Still Making Trouble in Vienna

The first day of the NSG meeting is now over. The Hindu has talked to diplomats representing countries opposed to the US-India uranium deal and the prospects for the deal do not appear bright.

The six countries holding out for tougher conditions to be written into the draft proposal granting India an exemption from the NSG's rules are Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland. But the coalition is a shifting one and the six are getting support from other countries on some of the demands they are making. At the same time, the number of countries pushing for approval of the exemption has also grown, say diplomats.

The biggest issue appears to be the requirement that any nuclear test by India would result in a cessation of uranium sales. Interestingly this may be most strongly opposed by the big uranium supplying nations (France and Russia for example) than by India itself.

Automatic cut-off of supplies in the event of India abandoning its moratorium on nuclear testing "has been our absolute bottom line from the beginning," said the diplomat, "and there is no question of it being dropped". At the same time, he conceded that more than India, it was the "big supplier nations" like Russia and France that were opposing automaticity of termination. "We know the U.S. is committed to terminating supplies [if India tests] but we don't want to leave the decision within the NSG to each individual PG [participating government]".

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