India, IAEA resume talks on n-deal

February 26th, 2008 - 12:19 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

Vienna/New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) Indian negotiators Monday resumed talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on India-specific nuclear safeguards to take forward the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, IAEA officials said. The Indian delegation, led by senior Department of Atomic Energy official R.B. Grover, began the fifth and probably final round of negotiations with the IAEA officials. The talks, a crucial step in operationalising the landmark deal, are expected to last the entire week.

If the agreement with the IAEA goes ahead, the deal would still need the approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which would have to change its rules in order to accommodate resumption of civil nuclear cooperation with India.

The talks are being held even as President Pratibha Patil expressed the hope in New Delhi that the nuclear deal would “become possible”.

President Patil told parliament, “It is our hope that civil nuclear cooperation with the US and other friendly countries will become possible.”

However, the ruling coalition’s Left allies, who are strongly opposed to the deal, immediately protested. “The government will have to suffer if they breach the commitment of not going ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member M.K. Pandhe told reporters.

Officials said that India and the IAEA hope to make further progress in the talks to finalise the text, so that it could be brought for discussion before the meeting of the Board of Governors Mar 3.

So far, four rounds of talks have been held between India and the IAEA on the agreement, but since it has to be a unique document reflecting India’s non-NPT status as well as possession of nuclear weapons, negotiations have been highly complex.

India is also looking for a fuel supply guarantor in the text, which is a tough prospect with IAEA not being a fuel supplier.

Once the text is finalized, it will have to first pass muster from the Left allies. If it is okayed, it will be inked and the Nuclear Suppliers Group pressed to change their guidelines to allow nuclear trade with India.

The UPA government hopes to push the deal through as early as possible, so that it can be ratified by the US Congress before the end of the current US administration’s term - the final step which will make the nuclear deal operational.

Recently, three influential US senators visiting India set a July-end deadline for ratification of the 123 India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

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