Government defends IAEA pact, says fuel supply assured (Lead)

July 12th, 2008 - 10:48 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) The government Saturday defended the proposed India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA, saying it assured permanent fuel supplies for its nuclear reactors and stressed that it did not cover the country’s strategic programme. “The strategic programme is completely insulated (from the safeguards pact),” Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar told reporters.

“Any supply agreement has to be between India and the supplier. Fuel guarantees will be embedded with the supply agreement,” Kakodkar said.

He was addressing a joint press conference along with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and R.B. Grover, India’s chief negotiator for the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He stressed that the safeguards pact, which was unveiled Thursday, provides for uninterrupted fuel supplies and freedom to build strategic fuel reserves for the lifetime of nuclear reactors that India will place under the safeguards in phases.

“India can take corrective action in case of disruption in fuel supplies. The response has to be calibrated. The corrective measures will depend upon our perception of the threat to the continuity of the nuclear reactors,” Kakodkar said.

“India will take corrective action when such a situation arises,” he added when asked whether India can withdraw a reactor from safeguards in case of disruption in fuel supply.

“It will be India’s sovereign decision to declare whether a nuclear reactor is civilian,” Kakodkar said.

“We are a nuclear weapon state. We know it. The world knows it. We should not be worried about definitions,” he said when asked whether the IAEA safeguards text recognized India as a nuclear weapon state. “We can’t be attracted to NPT definitions because we are not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).”

Grover underlined that the safeguards pact was an umbrella agreement that will cover all civil nuclear facilities India will place under safeguards and not facility-specific as was earlier.

“We have included fuel guarantees, corrective action and building of a strategic fuel reserve in the preamble and general considerations in the text of the agreement. This is a unique feature which has been attempted for the first time,” Grover said.

He stressed that the safeguards agreement was country-specific which recognized India as a de facto nuclear weapon state with a civilian as well as a military programme. “Our requirements have been fully reflected in the text,” he added.

Narayanan also clarified that “India will be at liberty” to file a declaration of its civilian facilities only after the NSG waiver, the endorsement of the deal by the US Congress and after it is fully satisfied that other conditions like uninterrupted fuel supply, corrective action and strategic reserve have been accommodated.

“The text includes the preamble according to a Vienna treaty. It is part of the treaty,” Menon said when asked about the Left’s contention that fuel supply assurances have only been reflected in the preamble and not in the main body of the text.

“If a foreign supplier supplies us a reactor, we have the right to go for stockpiling of fuel to ensure uninterrupted supply for the lifetime of the reactor,” Narayanan said.

“In the 123 enabling agreement, there is no reference to the Hyde Act, which is US legislation,” Narayayan said when asked about the Left’s criticism that the IAEA safeguards agreement does not address the fundamental problems in the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement.

The Left parties Friday had come out with a pointed critique of the IAEA safeguards agreement, saying it was “harmful” to India’s interests and questioned government claims of getting uninterrupted fuel supplies in return for placing nuclear reactors under permanent safeguards.

The four Left parties that have withdrawn support to the Manmohan Singh government alleged that the pact will “risk the permanent shutdown of imported reactors in case it failed to toe the US line on foreign policy issues”.

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