IAEA expected to clear pact as soon as India is ready

July 8th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Mehru Jaffer
Vienna, July 8 (IANS)The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to call a meeting of its Board of Governors this month and clear “without delay” the India-specific safeguards pact to make the India-US nuclear deal operational, an expert on nuclear law here said. The safeguards department of the UN atomic watchdog will present its report on nuclear rules for India at the meeting. “After listening to the proposal, the governors will probably pass it without delay,” the expert told IANS.

Speaking on condition of anonymity since the IAEA has not yet officially announced the meeting, the expert-lawyer added that the nuclear deal would be “dead” only if it dies in India for domestic political reasons.

“My guess is that at the IAEA it will go through,” the source said.

Most observers outside India felt the main hurdle facing the nuclear deal was the inability of the Indian government to convince its Left allies to back it.

The four parties propping the Manmohan Singh government Tuesday finally ended their support to the government. But the government said it would be able to save the deal and itself with help from new allies.

The IAEA is expected to announce a meeting in late July to review and approve the safeguards agreement that will allow the nuclear watchdog to monitor the Indian civilian nuclear sector.

IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors generally meets only five times a year - in March, June, twice in September and in December.

A July meeting may also discuss budget and technical issues. It will review India’s agreement to implement steps that support an international effort to curb the proliferation of nuclear arms.

India has agreed to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities and to open the former for inspection by the IAEA.

Experts point out that the political health of a country is not the concern of the IAEA. If a country is ready for an agreement, the IAEA is ready too.

Once the Board of Governors approves it, India’s case will be presented before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the close-knit but informal body of 45 countries.

Officials at the IAEA headquarters here believe that the US may have already done its homework as far as the NSG is concerned.

The India-US nuclear deal is not expected to face opposition at the NSG, depending on the influence the US exerts within the grouping.

While the NSG was formed after India’s nuclear explosion in 1974, today France, Russia and Britain support the India-US nuclear deal and are expected to convince other countries to do so.

Once the NSG changes its rules for nuclear commerce in India’s favour, the deal will be tabled before the US Congress for an up-and-down vote.

“All the work has already been done. The international community is waiting for India to put its own house in order. The Indian prime minister should have done what he is doing now a year ago,” an Austrian diplomat told IANS.

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