Nations that supply nuclear material and technology overcame fierce obstacles yesterday and approved a landmark US plan to engage in atomic trade with India — a deal that reverses more than three decades of US policy.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which governs the legal world trade in nuclear components and know-how, signed off on the deal after three days of contentious talks and some concessions to countries fearful it could set a dangerous precedent.
“Today we have reached a landmark decision to allow for civilian nuclear trade with India,” John Rood, acting US undersecretary of state for arms control issues, told reporters.
“This is a historical moment for the NSG, for India and for India’s relations with the rest of the world,” he said.
India hailed the agreement as “a forward-looking and momentous decision.”
“It marks the end of India’s decades-long isolation from the nuclear mainstream,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement. “The opening of full civil nuclear cooperation between India and the international community will be good for India and for the world.”
But Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, denounced the move as a “profound setback to the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament system that will produce dangerous ripple effects for years to come.”
“By establishing a ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ set of rules, the decision will make it far harder to curb the South Asian nuclear and missile arms race,” Kimball said.
He said the deal would “undermine efforts to contain Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear program, and it will make it nearly impossible to win support for much needed measures to strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.”
Austria, one of the holdouts along with Ireland and New Zealand, said it lifted its objections after India pledged on Friday not to touch off a new nuclear arms race or share sensitive nuclear technology with other countries.
In a statement, the Austrian government called that pledge “decisive” and Rood said it “played a major role” in removing obstacles to an agreement.
The US needed approval from the nuclear group, which governs the legal trade in nuclear components and technology, and from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which signed off on the deal last month.