India likely to clinch IAEA pact by mid-July

July 1st, 2008 - 5:46 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) With the stage set for a final political call on taking the nuclear deal forward, the government plans to send a team of top officials to Vienna to clinch the IAEA pact after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh comes back from Japan next week. “The department of atomic energy team is ready to go to Vienna at a short notice. It could happen before mid-July,” an official source, who did not wish to be named due to sensitivity of the subject, told IANS. He was asked when the government planned to send a team to Vienna to sign the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) pact.

In case the government decides to go ahead with a safeguards pact with the IAEA, India, a member of the IAEA board, will request the UN nuclear watchdog to convene a special meeting for the ratification of the pact.

The agreed text of the India-specific safeguards agreement, which will place 14 of the country’s civilian nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards in phases, has been finalised and is ready for ratification by the 35-member IAEA board of governors, the official said.

After the agreed text has been signed, it will be sent to other board members by the IAEA Secretariat.

What has been holding up the IAEA pact is the Left’s refusal to let the government go ahead with the safeguards agreement which they fear will put the nuclear deal, opposed by the Communist parties, on “auto-pilot”.

But now, as the government readies for a final parting of ways with the Communist parties, a decision on concluding the IAEA pact and taking the nuclear deal forward could be taken by the end of this week before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heads to Japan to attend the G8 summit July 6.

Manmohan Singh is likely to convey his government’s decision to go ahead with the deal when he meets US President George Bush on the sidelines of the G8 summit and use the occasion to win over other Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) countries which represented at the summit.

India is one of the five countries including China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico that have been invited to attend the G8 summit as outreach partners.

The government’s top political managers have stepped up efforts to forge a credible majority in the Lok Sabha in case the Left withdraws support.

With time running out for completion of the deal, the government is keen to wrap up the IAEA pact by mid-July so that it is ratified by the IAEA board well in time for the 45-nation NSG to clear global nuclear commerce with India - a process that could take up to two months.

The idea is to get these two steps out of the way so that the US president can write a presidential determination for approval of the deal by both houses of the US Congress before the November presidential elections.

In a bid to muster the widest possible political support, Manmohan Singh has assured allies and sceptics that he will come back to parliament for a sense of the house on the nuclear deal after completing the next two steps - the IAEA pact and the NSG waiver.

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