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Nuclear Exporters Appear to Restrict Trade With India: Report

India seems to be covered by the Nuclear Suppliers Group's call for its 46 member states to avoid transferring weapons-sensitive enrichment and reprocessing systems to countries that do not meet strict nonproliferation standards, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday (see GSN, July 5).

The move could prevent India from importing the nuclear fuel technologies to bolster its nuclear weapons activities, despite a special exception the export organization approved in 2008 enabling its members to engage in civilian atomic trade with the South Asian state, according to AP.

An unreleased four-page paper approved by NSG nations at an annual meeting in June recommends that members "not authorize the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing facilities and equipment and technology" to any country that has not entered the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a complete inspections arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the IAEA Additional Protocol, which permits closer U.N. scrutiny of atomic sites in signatory nations.

Nuclear-armed India has not joined the treaty and only allows IAEA access to select civilian atomic sites.

The United States seemed to indicate the new rules would apply to India, AP reported.

"The new NSG guidelines don't put the India exception in doubt," but they "reinforce the commitment of NSG members to prevent the transfer of items that could be used for weapons purposes," one high-level U.S. government source said.

As India is already capable of generating additional nuclear-weapon material with its fast-breeder reactors, the NSG restrictions could largely signify a loss of prestige for New Delhi, which has sought international recognition of its atomic arsenal similar to the status granted to the five nuclear weapons states acknowledged by the nonproliferation treaty, according to AP.

Anil Kakodar, one-time head of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, characterized the export group's move as "a betrayal."

The guidelines would not prevent India from importing nuclear power reactors from NSG member nations, but New Delhi has suggested it might curb such purchases from countries that rule out access to nuclear fuel enrichment and reprocessing systems. Firms in the United States, France and Russia hope to make such reactor sales to the South Asian state.

New Delhi has not received enrichment and reprocessing systems from NSG member nations in the past, but the new rules explicitly restrict exports of such materials, according to AP, which obtained a copy of the guidelines from the Arms Control Association in Washington.

Arms Control Association head Daryl Kimball said the export group's move is "an important, if overdue, decision to tighten its rules on the transfer of equipment and technology that can be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons."

The measure would "ensure that sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies will not be transferred to India and used in its unsafeguarded military program," Kimball said (George Jahn, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, July 6).

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