India’s IAEA pact nearly complete, political call needed

February 29th, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) India has managed to nearly finalize the safeguards pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) except for some lingering quibbles over the choice of words in the draft text on fuel guarantees, official sources said Friday. The fifth round of talks between Indian nuclear officials and the IAEA has made “considerable progress” in accommodating two of India’s key expectations: uninterrupted fuel supply for India’s safeguarded civilian reactors and its right to take corrective action in case supply is interrupted.

All that is required now is fine-tuning precise phraseology that will acknowledge India’s right to develop strategic fuel reserve and corrective measures, an official source told IANS.

The Indian team headed by R.B. Grover, director, Strategic Planning, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is returning from Vienna Friday night, the source in the DAE told IANS from Mumbai Friday.

The fifth round of talks was extended by a day and finally concluded Thursday.

The team will report to DAE chief Anil Kakodkar who said Thursday he was “optimistic” about India concluding the IAEA pact soon.

The government plans to hold intensive discussions on the progress in the IAEA negotiations and will only go ahead with concluding the pact after it is sure it can sell it to its Left allies, who are virulently opposed to the India-US nuclear deal.

In a sense, the conclusion of the pact depends on the government’s readiness to force the issue with its Left allies who prop up the ruling coalition from behind.

The Left parties have to approve the draft pact before the government can go ahead with the next stage in completing the deal: seeking a change of guidelines from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for global nuclear commerce with India.

Discussions between the two sides, that began late last year after the Left parties gave a green signal to the government, have dragged on this long because of the unique nature of the India-specific safeguards.

The IAEA standard template does not apply to India, which has nuclear weapons but has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and yet desires to join global civil nuclear commerce. The IAEA has to come out with a deftly worded text that can pass muster with its 35-member board.

Technically speaking, the IAEA is not a supplier of fuel and, therefore, can’t act as a guarantor of fuel.

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