U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal Opponents Delay Talks
Indian communists delayed talks planned for today with India’s ruling political party over a proposal to open the country’s civilian nuclear sites to international inspections, a key step in implementing a nuclear trade agreement with the United States, the Times of India reported (see GSN, May 21).
The tentative agreement giving New Delhi access to U.S. nuclear technology and materials has faced opposition from Indian communists, who have threatened to force early elections if the government signs the safeguards agreement or take other steps to implement the trade pact.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its allies delayed the talks to prevent New Delhi from finalizing the inspections arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, sources said. The communists communicated the delay to the Indian administration without immediately disclosing it to the public.
The communists hope to push talks on the U.S.-Indian deal into August, sources said. “By then [U.S. President George W. Bush] would be in no position to help India clinch the deal. Even in India people have given up on the deal,” one source said (see GSN, May 13).
The delay could undermine negotiations with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which must grant New Delhi a waiver to import nuclear fuel under the trade deal because India has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (Akshaya Mukul, Times of India I, May 27),
Last week, Indian officials told NSG members meeting in Berlin that the U.S.-Indian deal would be implemented despite the months-old political stalemate in New Delhi (see GSN, May 19).
Meanwhile, a top Australian official hinted that his government could vote to permit the NSG waiver despite its reversal of a previous administration’s decision to allow uranium sales to India.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith recently told Indian reporters: “The Labor Party has a strong policy of not exporting uranium to any country that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. We have made this clear to Indian officials that we are bound by the party policy. But if the 123 agreement is passed by the Indian Parliament, we could consider joining a consensus of the NSG and IAEA.”
“We will wait for the 123 agreement between India and the U.S. to emerge and then make a judgment,” Smith said (Indrani Bagchi, Times of India II, May 27).