Vienna/New Delhi: The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has approved a US plan to engage in nuclear trade with India. Following the green signal by the NSG that will cement the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation, India has finally come out of the 34-year old nuclear apartheid.
India had been forced into nuclear isolation following the 1974 Pokharan atomic tests and ironically the NSG was formed in reaction to those tests.
The approval came after almost three days of meeting in Vienna on Saturday. The NSG meet was called to minimise any damage to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which India has not joined.
The consensus was arrived after overcoming misgivings expressed by Austria, Ireland and New Zealand and is an unprecedented step in giving exemption to a country, which has not signed the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
A statement issued by Austrian Foreign Ministry said, "After protracted negotiations, the NSG today adopted an exemption for nuclear exports to India. We are finally convinced by Pranab's (India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee) statement and India's commitment to Non proliferation. We continue to have concerns on language on testing but we will not block consensus."
Austrian Foreign Ministry Peter Launsky said, "A sense of relief is prevailing over here."
After protracted negotiations, the NSG today adopted an exemption for nuclear exports to India
There was jubilation in the Congress camp with Prime Minister, who won a vote of confidence on July 22 on the issue of going to the NSG, said, "It's a historic deal."
Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said, "It's a red letter day for India. It’s not just the Prime Minister. The deal shows that the perseverance and vision of the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi ended the nuclear apartheid. We have been made a special exemption. This would be seen as India's red letter day when we broke the nuclear deadlock."
"As far as BJP is concerned the grapes are sour from them. Left has its own ideological view and lives in a time warp," Tiwari added. “We have been able to convince the world about this deal.”
The Indo-US nuclear deal needed approval from the NSG as it governs legal trade in nuclear components and technology.
However, the nuclear deal still needs to be ratified by the US Congress before it could take force. The Congress must act before adjourning in late September for US presidential elections.
If that does not happen then the deal could be left to an uncertain fate under a new US administration that takes office next year.
Former Indian foreign secretary and former ambassador to the US, Lalit Mansingh hailed it as a major victory for India.
"It's a significant victory for India and a milestone in nuclear equity. India did the right thing by standing firm and highlighting its red lines. Now 34 years of nuclear apartheid is finally over. But there is still one more hurdle to overcome which is the US congress. If this were a marathon, I would day we have won the silver medal. We’ll hopefully win the gold medal by the end of this year," Mansingh said.
The team that pulled it off: Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Shiv Shankar Menon, Shyam Saran, MK Narayanan, Anil Kakodkar, RB Grover, DB Venkatesh Varma.