Glenn Kessler has an interesting little story in the Washington Post about the agreement to waive Nuclear Suppliers Group restrictions on civil nuclear trade with India. Kessler cites “sources familiar with the discussions” making two claims:
1. “[The NSG] privately agreed last weekend that none of its members plans to sell sensitive technologies to India .. [to] persuade several skeptical member states to support a waiver authorizing nuclear trade with India…”
2. “The NSG separately is nearing consensus on a total ban on sensitive sales to countries such as India that have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty … [This was] another factor in persuading countries such as Ireland, New Zealand and Austria to end their effort to write such trade restrictions into the waiver for India.”
Here is the money quote:
“In the discussions about how to handle enrichment and reprocessing, it was made clear that nobody had any plans to transfer such technologies to India in the foreseeable future,” said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was describing private diplomatic exchanges. While such statements were not binding, he said, the NSG countries recognized that they were planning to “tighten up” the rules on such sales in the near future, allowing them to achieve the same restrictions on India later without causing a diplomatic rupture now.
It is a good bit of reporting. US policy is to generally oppose the transfer of such materials. In case that wasn’t clear before, let me remind you of the Answer to Question 5 of the 45 Questions:
Consistent with standing U.S. policy, the U.S. government will not assist India in the design, construction, or operation of sensitive nuclear technologies through the transfer of dual-use items, whether under the Agreement or outside the Agreement. The United States rarely transfers dual-use items for sensitive nuclear activities to any cooperating party and no such transfers are currently pending.
I am glad to see that the NSG countries reached a private understanding to block the sale of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to India. Some Indian officials have described this as a red line. I hope so.
A prohibition on enrichment and reprocessing technologies — either private or formal — doesn’t, however, address my core concerns: that carving out an exception for India undermines the rule of law and allows India to use the international marketplace to mitigate the effect of any sanctions following a resumption of nuclear testing.