With attempts to get a quick and clean exemption from NSG not materialising immediately, India and the US are set to work on changes in the draft waiver for fine-tuning its provisions in the light of reservations expressed by some countries.
Coverage: Indo-US Nuclear Deal
Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon left for Washington Saturday morning after the two-day Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting in Vienna ended inconclusively on Friday with another round scheduled early next month for considering India's case for an exemption to do nuclear commerce with other countries.
Though officials maintained that Menon's trip to Washington was pre-planned, the significance of the visit is not lost on observers who feel that he may utilise the occasion to work with the US on how to come out with a waiver that will be acceptable to all without compromising India's position.
The 45-nation NSG will meet early next month, possibly on September 4-5, to consider the changes which US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said are necessary to accommodate the concerns raised by some countries.
Boucher said in Mumbai on Friday that some countries had 'objections' and 'we need to listen' to them.
"I don't want to lie to you. I can't really lie. There might be some changes that we could accept. But we are pushing for a clean text," he had said.
"The US and India will have to sit together and see what we can accommodate and what we can't. We will have to talk to the other governments involved," said Boucher.
India is also firm that it wants an unconditional exemption and a language acceptable to it on all issues, including right to conduct tests.
After the NSG meeting, Menon, who is expected to meet US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, told media persons that as per the July 18, 2005, understanding, the US will have to obtain adjustments with the NSG.
He understood from various friendly nations that none of the members said that there should not be any special exemption to India, the Foreign Secretary said.
Menon said he learnt that the two-day NSG meting was constructive and useful and exemption to the grouping's guidelines would help in the civil nuclear trade.
He said an exemption is a necessary step for the cooperation between NSG and India and 'we look forward to work with them on civil nuclear cooperation'.
Ahead of the NSG meeting early September, the US will have to carry out changes suggested by at least 20 members. Menon said he will not comment on what India feels now as it is a diplomatic process and it has to see what kind of changes are being made by the Americans based on the suggestions made by NSG.
One of the diplomats said that India will examine the changes in the draft carefully once the Americans redraft it to check whether the changes are substantial or innocuous editorial changes. No time-frame, however, has been fixed.
Menon said the US very well knew India's stand on the issue and it is for Washington to carry out the commitments made on July 18, 2005.
India has been carrying out an aggressive 'out reach' programme meeting each and every NSG member country, mostly at the top diplomatic and political level for the past three weeks, especially last three days.
Menon said there were indications that differences among the NSG member countries over an exemption to India were getting narrowed down and added it was remarkable that it was happening in such a short span.
"We hope that they come to the right conclusion."
While the Indian diplomats said no time-frame has been fixed for carrying out the changes in the draft, the US is expected to do the work in the coming two weeks.
During the last three weeks, the Indian delegation met all NSG members individually and told them about New Delhi's impeccable record of non-proliferation.
Describing the NSG meeting as 'positive', John Rood, the leader of the US delegation, said yesterday many delegates raised some questions.
"I remain optimistic and we will continue to make progress."
Sources in Vienna said some changes would be made in the language of the draft and the US will circulate it before the next NSG meeting.
The NSG meeting in September will be crucial considering the time constraint for operationalising the Indo-US nuclear deal as Washington has set a time-line for Congressional discussion on September 8.
After the NSG clearance, the deal will go back for a final vote to the US Congress which will open on September 8 a three-week session, the last before the American Presidential elections in November.
A senior NSG diplomat, meanwhile, said there could be one or more rounds of talks after the September meeting of the grouping as the process involves the sensitive issue of transfer of nuclear material and equipment.
"The US and India will have to sit together and see what we can accommodate and what we can't. We will have to talk to the other governments involved," a US official said.
He did not specify as to what kind of changes would be made in the draft, which was finalised after tough negotiations between Washington and New Delhi.
Sources in Vienna said some changes would be made in the language of the draft, which the US will bring back at the next NSG meeting.
The Indian side also understood to have pointed out that New Delhi already has in place strict export control rules to prohibit transfer of nuclear technology and fuel to ineligible entities.
When asked whether they were disappointed after the NSG meeting ended inconclusively, Indian diplomats said they knew that it was going to be a tough game. But, they said, it was a process and it would take its own time.