India keen to make public safeguards pact with IAEA

March 18th, 2008 - 9:16 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Liz Mathew
New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) Amid persistent differences with the Left over the India-US nuclear deal, the Indian government is keen to make public the safeguards pact with the UN nuclear watchdog, a senior official said Tuesday. The official, who has access to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and is closely associated with the negotiation process, said the government was interested in building a national consensus over the controversial nuclear deal.

“To get a broad consensus, we have to make the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) India-specific safeguard agreement public,” the official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

New Delhi, however, has an informal agreement with the IAEA that both the Vienna-based body and New Delhi will make the document public simultaneously.

At the same time, in a bid to avoid a confrontation, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and its Communist allies who are opposed to the nuclear deal wanted to delay a final decision on the deal due to political reasons, sources in both camps say.

The sources said that Monday’s UPA-Left meeting that discussed the India-specific safeguards and agreed to meet again in April was a “well-choreographed” move to seek more time to finalise India’s stand on the nuclear deal.

Government sources said India had managed to “facilitate the international nuclear commerce” - which had been blocked due to New Delhi’s nuclear tests in 1998 - in the draft of the India-specific safeguard agreement with the IAEA finalised last month in Vienna.

“In the agreement, we have managed to have the right to build strategic reserve and the right to take corrective measures if there is a disruption in the fuel supply,” a highly placed source said.

“We will withdraw voluntarily if there is a violation of the agreement. By making them agree to a civil nuclear programme, we have made them accept that we have non-civilian nuclear programme also, a status enjoyed by only the P-5 countries,” the source added.

However, the source admitted that the clauses in the final agreement were “subject to interpretation”.

The Left parties claim the government has refused to divulge the details of the final document of the agreement with the IAEA.

The Left leaders who attended the 15-member nuclear committee meeting Monday were given a note featuring the highlights of the agreement. The notes were taken back after they read them.

The Left parties can send a questionnaire if they need more details.

According to the sources, at an earlier meeting with Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat Monday, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee explained the government’s position in detail.

Karat then briefed his colleagues in the Left parties, while Mukherjee explained the government position to UPA allies ahead of the 5 p.m. UPA-Left meeting.

“The Left did not oppose or support the government’s stance at the meeting,” a UPA minister said.

The sources added that both the Left and the UPA partners were not for early parliamentary elections - which might become a reality if the Communists withdraw support to the government over the nuclear issue.

Both are apparently keen to delay a decision as “any step towards the operationalisation of the nuclear deal with the US” would force the Communists to end its alliance with the government, a Left leader pointed out.

The Left argues that India’s strategic interests would be hit hard by the India-US nuclear deal.

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