India to brief IAEA, NSG Friday, US to bat for deal (Lead, Changing Dateline)

July 17th, 2008 - 6:09 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi/Washington, July 17 (IANS) When India briefs the IAEA board and Nuclear Suppliers Group countries on its proposed safeguards pact in Vienna Friday, a top US diplomat will also be in the Austrian capital to drum up support for the nuclear deal. The special briefing, that coincides with the third anniversary of the July 18, 2005 India-US civil nuclear understanding, will be held at a place outside the premises of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

An Indian team comprising senior officials of the external affairs ministry and the department of atomic energy that includes Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and R.B. Grover, the chief negotiator of the India-specific safeguards agreement, leaves for Vienna Thursday night.

Menon and Grover, who is also the director of strategic planning in the department of atomic energy, will be joined by Indian Ambassador in Vienna Saurabh Singh Friday, an official source said here.

Earlier, India had decided to brief 140 member countries of the IAEA on the safeguards pact and different aspects of the India-US nuclear deal, but then scaled down the briefing in view of the trust vote the Manmohan Singh government is facing July 22.

Out of the 35 nations in the IAEA board, 26 are NSG members and the remaining 19 NSG countries have also been invited for the briefing in the run up to the board’s scheduled meeting in Vienna Aug 1.

The IAEA board will have to approve the India-specific safeguards pact before the 45-nation NSG decides on amending its guidelines to restore global nuclear trade with India.

The proposed India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which was unveiled last week, meets three of New Delhi’s key concerns: uninterrupted fuel supply for its safeguarded reactors, strategic fuel reserve and right to take corrective action in case of disruption of fuel supply.

The briefing is aimed at winning over sceptics in the NSG like Austria, Ireland and Australia and assuage concerns about the impact of the safeguards pact and the India-US nuclear deal on the global non-proliferation architecture.

Menon is likely to underline India’s impeccable non-proliferation record despite not having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the country’s growing need for environmentally clean energy source, meaning nuclear power.

As India launches a charm offensive directed at NSG, it will get added support from US Under Secretary of State William Burns, who will also be in Vienna Friday to seek support for the nuclear deal.

“Friday, he’s (Burns’) going to have some consultations at the International Atomic Energy Agency, related to the nuclear deal,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

Burns is likely to visit India by July-end for consultations on taking the deal forward as it enters the last lap before an endorsement by the US Congress.

Under the July 18, 2005 understanding, the US is committed to getting the support of the NSG for global nuclear cooperation with India after it concludes the IAEA pact.

New Delhi is looking for “clean, unconditional exemption” from the NSG for the restoration of global civil nuclear commerce which was suspended after it conducted a “peaceful explosion” in 1974.

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