Sunday, September 7, 2008

NSG agrees to India waiver

In a dramatic last minute agreement the NSG has agreed to the waiver for the US-India uranium deal. Details of the waiver are sketchy and the deal must now get through the US congress.

According to the Hindu, New Zealand was the last to concede in a classic divide and conquer strategy by high level US diplomats.

“It was clear to us that as long as these countries were a group, they would remain a problem,” a senior Indian official said. “But we also knew none of them wanted to be the last man standing.” So between the United States and India, a determined political effort was made late Friday night to ensure each of the four came on board. The first to agree was China, said the official, and the last New Zealand, with Ireland and Austria also dropping their objections in between. Though the last three communicated their decision to Washington, the official said the Chinese side directly informed India that it intended to back the consensus.

It seems that little has been done formally to modify the original waiver, but that a statement on September 5 from the Indian Foreign Minister reiterating their moratorium on testing has been mentioned in a 'chapeau' to the waiver. New Zealand is also one of several countries to make a national statement expressing disquiet at the deal. From the Hindu again:

Though several minor changes were made in the India waiver adopted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group on Saturday, the most important change from the point of view of those countries with non-proliferation concerns was the incorporation of a reference to the September 5 statement made by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee reiterating India’s stand on disarmament and non-proliferation.

Among the commitments the statement highlighted were India’s voluntary and unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, its “policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons” and several initiatives the country has taken in recent years to press for the elimination of nuclear weapons at the global level.

For a feeling of the pressure that has been exerted there is this:

Asked for his assessment of the waiver, a diplomat from a European country which initially wanted much stronger conditional language said his government had joined the consensus “very reluctantly.” “I wouldn’t say we’re happy,” he said, adding that his country and several others had been “leaned on at the highest levels.”

I take it we can assume that we have been "leaned on at the highest levels" also.

The Washington Post has run an impassioned critique of the deal here.

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