India to begin safeguards talks with IAEA Monday

February 24th, 2008 - 11:56 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) India will hold another round of talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna from Monday which is expected to lead to a safeguards agreement, a key step towards implementing the country’s landmark nuclear deal with the US. The Indian delegation led by R.B. Grover, a senior official in the Department of Atomic Energy, is already in Vienna for the talks that are expected to last the entire week, official sources said.

With the clock ticking away for the deal, the fifth round of talks could prove to be the final round to clinch an India-specific safeguards pact that will recognize New Delhi’s unique status as a non-NPT country possessing nuclear weapons which seeks global civil nuclear cooperation.

India wants the safeguards pact to ensure uninterrupted fuel supply for the civilian nuclear reactors it will place under safeguards in phases and its right to take corrective action in case fuel supply is interrupted.

As the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, is not a supplier of fuel, the negotiations are turning out to complex and are taking more time than expected.

The uniqueness and complexity of the India-specific safeguards explain why no draft pact could be arrived at in the last four rounds.

The Indian government has intensified its efforts to conclude the safeguards pact so that the Nuclear Suppliers Group can take a decision on changing its guidelines to allow India to resume civil nuclear commerce with the NSG countries.

However, the IAEA draft pact has to pass muster with the Left allies of the government before it can proceed further.

The government is optimistic about pushing the deal through to its logical conclusion so that it can be ratified by the US Congress well in time - 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.

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar pointed out the intricacies of the issues involved in the IAEA pact when he said recently: “There are several steps involved. We have to move step by step.”

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