The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday announced that it would do what it could to aid nuclear-armed India in joining an international nuclear export control group, Interfax reported (see GSN, June 24).
"Russia has reaffirmed its intention to facilitate in every way India's full membership in the [Nuclear Suppliers] Group," the ministry said in a statement published on its website.
The plenary session last week of the 46-nation nuclear exporters organization resulted in a a variety of member agreements to advance the regime's goals, the statement said.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group oversees the vast amount of global atomic trade and is aimed at limiting nuclear material and technologies exports to countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, though India has been granted a high-profile waiver.
"The member states have approved a list of the export control criteria for the delivery of units, equipment and technologies for uranium enrichment and chemical processing of spent nuclear fuel," the statement reads.
The meeting, held in the Netherlands, also assessed the results of an in-depth analysis of NSG control lists for sensitive nuclear technology and spelled out additional areas for improvement in the control regime (Interfax, June 27).
The 2008 waiver that India received from the control group paved the way for New Delhi's conclusion of a landmark atomic trade agreement with the United States that permitted U.S. firms to export nuclear materials and technology to the nuclear-armed state. India in return agreed to open its nonmilitary nuclear sites to international inspection.
The NSG waiver to India did not exclude the sale of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, but the new guidelines adopted last week could constrain NSG nations' ability to export those products to the South Asian country, the Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday.
While not all of the details have been released, the guidelines could make the purchase from NSG members of enrichment and reprocessing technology conditioned on NPT membership.
Uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing can be used both to generate nuclear fuel and produce weapon-usable material.
NSG members France and Russia have each signed atomic trade agreements with India. The two nuclear powers have also repeatedly voiced their openness to selling enrichment and reprocessing technology to the energy-hungry country.
New Delhi officials said the Nuclear Suppliers Group could not revise its no-strings-attached 2008 waiver to India.
"The clean waiver is a subject matter between India and the NSG," an Indian official said. "We haven't heard anything from them so far."
The new proposed norms are thought to be directed at other countries with nuclear weapons programs that have not signed the NPT pact, such as North Korea and Pakistan.
"From the Indian point of view the important thing is that the NSG had given a clean waiver to India and we want to emphasize that," Indian Ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar said.
Former Indian envoy M.K. Bhadrakumar said, "There is a clear double standard here on the part of the U.S."
The Obama administration on Thursday lauded the NSG move to restrict trade enrichment and reprocessing systems even as it reaffirmed its support of civilian atomic trade with India.
India is not expected to have need of nuclear fuel recycling technology for some time, as purchased nuclear reactors from abroad have not yet gone on line.
"The technology transfer is at the heart of commerce with the U.S.," a high-ranking official said. "The Americans know it well. They won't be doing anything specifically to squeeze India at the NSG at a time when they are ending tech sanctions on India" (Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, June 28).
Former Indian Ambassador to the United States Lalit Mansingh, urged caution in responding to the new suggested norms, while adding that there could be significant ramifications to them, Livemint.com reported.
"I think we should wait to see the fine print before reacting," the former diplomat said. "We need to seek a clarification from the NSG chair on whether India can buy [enrichment and reprocessing] technologies. We also need clarification from the U.S. on this.
"If this issue is not resolved, it could cause a serious bilateral crisis. We need to resolve this before the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton" in mid-July, Mansingh said (Elizabeth Roche, Livemint.com, June 25).