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'NSG may meet again to finalise waiver for India'

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August 12, 2008 14:19 IST

A senior American official lobbying for an expeditious approval of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal has held out the prospect of finding an 'easy agreement' with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, but said it could take 'another' meeting after August to finalise the waiver for India.

Will the nuclear deal fall in US Congress?

On August 21, the US will seek a waiver for nuclear trade with India from the NSG, which consists of countries that export nuclear material and technology, before the deal is sent to the American Congress for ratification.

'If we find an easy agreement, maybe we can finish our discussions, but it may take another meeting after that to get together,' Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian affairs, told media persons.

The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted on August 1 by consensus a safeguards agreement for India, a key step for initiating civilian nuclear cooperation with New Delhi under the deal.

The top diplomat agreed that 'there are a lot of serious issues' involved before the work is done in the NSG. Some media reports have suggested that India and the US have planed a second meeting of the NSG in early September.

'We are relying on the understanding of other partners in this effort. We are asking people to look closely and quickly in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, to move expeditiously, and we hope that will happen, and then we'll go to the US Congress,' Boucher was quoted as saying last week in Japan, a transcript of which has been released in Washington.

"We are trying to listen to other governments and we will have a more complete discussion later this month with the other nuclear suppliers," he stressed.

Even as agreeing that it is 'a tight timetable' he said, 'now that India has told us they are ready to move forward, we are determined to move as far as we can, as quickly as we can."

Boucher was optimistic about the passage of the deal on the Capitol Hill as 'both presidential candidates voted for it'.

'I think the one good thing is that the agreement got a lot of strong support from both parties when it first went to the Congress and they passed the Hyde Act, and that was very bipartisan,' the State Department official stressed.
Boucher was hopeful that if the work can be 'done' with the nuclear suppliers, the US 'Congress will help to finish it'.
He underlined that the Bush administration has not asked India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) even if it has been an issue during the previous Clinton administration.

'That was certainly, I think, part of the discussion in the Clinton administration. I do not think it has really been a product of more recent discussions, because of the reaction of our Senate and others expressed about the treaty,' he said.

Moreover, he said, 'India has made it very clear that's not on the cards'.

Boucher last week pushed a reluctant Japan and other members of the NSG to agree to a waiver for India 'expeditiously' for enabling the Indo-US deal, saying the accord will be a 'practical way' of engaging New Delhi on non-proliferation.

Even as accepting that the landmark deal fits into the 'the bigger picture of our (US) relationships with India', Boucher said the pact contributes to clean energy for New Delhi's economic development, and its relationship with the rest of the world.

'So we think it's a good thing. We hope people will talk this through the Nuclear Suppliers and reach a consensus,' the top State Department official stressed.
Sridhar Krishnaswami
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