India may approach IAEA this week on safeguards pactJuly 6th, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by IANS
By Pranay Sharma
New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) Assured of the Samajawadi Party’s support in case of a trust vote in parliament over the India-US nuclear deal, the government could as early as this week approach the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for an India-specific safeguards agreement as the first step towards making the deal operational. Simultaneously, the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will also have to be notified for a meeting to discuss and amend its guideline to permit nuclear commerce with India after a 30-year gap.
Nearly 30 NSG members are also on the IAEA board of governors.
“For this, India and the United States will have to work in tandem and in close cooperation with each other,” government sources told IANS.
India is on the 35-member IAEA board but is not in the NSG. While it can approach the IAEA for a meeting of its board of governors, it will have to depend on the US to take up the issue with the NSG.
“We will get a clear idea about the timeframe this week,” the sources said.
A meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush is scheduled July 9 on the sidelines of the G8 Summit in Japan - and the nuclear deal is sure to figure in their discussions.
The prime minister is leaving for the summit Monday with a high-level delegation that includes National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and the prime minister’s special envoy on the nuclear deal, Shyam Saran.
The Left parties that support the government from the outside have given a July 7 deadline to be informed about plans to approach the IAEA, saying they would pull the plug if this happens.
The Congress had earlier tried to ignore the Left demand, saying: “No sovereign political party can be subjected to a deadline.” But indications are that the government may come out with a response to what the Left seeks, though it may not come by Monday.
With the 39-member Samajwadi Party willing to rally behind the government if the Left parties withdraw support, the thinking in the Prime Minister’s Office is now in favour of approaching the IAEA and the NSG at the earliest.
For the government, surviving a trust vote in parliament - likely to be convened in the middle of August - will also mean getting the legitimate backing of the house on the nuclear deal.
Time is, however, of crucial importance as India is looking at a September deadline to complete all the formalities and get the final approval of the US Congress on the nuclear deal.
To meet this deadline, India will have to ensure that the safeguards agreement and the NSG amendments are in place by the time the US Congress re-convenes on the first Monday after Labour Day that falls on Sep 1.
The US Congress will then pass an up-down vote on the 123 agreement - the final stage in operationalising the nuclear deal.
Sources here said that while there is an option for a 72-hour notice to the IAEA for convening a meeting of its board, India will want to opt for the regulation 45-day period. This is being thought of as a better option as it leaves little scope for the board members to argue that they need more time for consultation to decide on the safeguards agreement.
The one-and-a-half month period also gives India the time to lobby with the other countries on the IAEA board.