IAEA studies Indian draft behind wall of silence

July 10th, 2008 - 6:57 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Mehru Jaffer
Vienna, July 10 (IANS) A 25-page draft of a safeguards agreement between India and the UN nuclear watchdog was being studied here behind a wall of silence with expectations that it will be approved by month end. At the request of the Indian government, the IAEA Secretariat Wednesday circulated copies of the draft agreement to 35 members of its Board of Governors for individual consideration.

“The chairman of the board is consulting with board members to agree on a date for a board meeting when the agreement would be considered,” Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Wednesday in a press release about a future meeting where the agreement for the application of safeguards to India’s civilian nuclear facilities is expected to be approved.

Fleming added that IAEA officials will not give interviews at this time.

At the meeting, still to be announced, all 35 members will come together to collectively consider the draft agreement before it is approved.

At informal talks officials circle July 28 as the day when the IAEA board is expected to meet to approve India’s safeguards agreement, but there is no formal confirmation of the date so far.

In the draft India classifies 14 out of its 22 atomic reactors as civilian which will be open to the IAEA for inspection after the safeguards agreement is approved by the nuclear watchdog’s board.

“IAEA wants to help India develop its civil technology and to fulfil the country’s need for energy without destroying the environment with CO2 emissions from the use of coal and oil,” an IAEA consultant told IANS with a request for anonymity considering that the issue has transgressed from the technical and scientific to the more sensitive realm of politics and diplomacy.

To make the India-US civil nuclear energy deal operational, the draft agreement needs to be first approved by the IAEA before it is tabled before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an informal club of 45 nations that keeps a stern eye on activities related to nuclear commerce around the world in an attempt to avoid proliferation.

The NSG was created following India’s explosion in 1974 of a nuclear device. India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to this day and safeguarding the nuclear technology transferred to India for peaceful purposes from being misused continues to be a matter of concern to the NSG.

The US has been urging India to wrap up the next steps in making operational their nuclear deal, announced three years ago.

However, opposition to the deal from the government’s Left allies had prevented Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from moving ahead.

While the Left parties formally withdrew their legislative support to the government, the Samajwadi Party has come forward to back it and help the government take the nuclear deal forward.

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