When their moods said it all - view from the IAEA corridors

August 2nd, 2008 - 10:07 am ICT by IANS  

By Mehru Jaffer
Vienna, Aug 2 (IANS) The Indians looked nervous, the Americans were confident while the Pakistanis preferred to sulk in the shadows. That summed up the mood in the Austrian capital Friday with the international atomic energy watchdog - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - unanimously approving a India-specific safeguards agreement - a key step in the process of implementing the country’s landmark nuclear accord with the United States.

“That the agreement was approved by consensus makes me very happy. It is a clean and unconditional exemption for India,” a red-eyed, very exhausted but happy Anil Kakodkar, who heads India’s Department of Atomic Energy, told IANS as he emerged from the meeting of IAEA’s 35-member board at the agency’s impressive headquarters here.

What made the victory sweeter was that the IAEA’s 35-member board unanimously approved the safeguards agreement.

“This is an important step for India and for the world at large. India has been a responsible country in the past and will continue to follow the philosophy of being responsible in the future,” Kakodkar said.

Questioned if India will meet the same happy fate when its case for exemption is reviewed by the Nuclear Suplliers Group (NSG) of 45 nations, some of whom reluctant to do with business with India as it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Kakodkar said: “We will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Pakistan, India”s nuclear rival, had July 18 circulated its criticism of the agreement but Friday chose not to oppose its approval.

Before the meeting started Friday morning, the Indian delegation, that included Saurabh Kumar, New Delhi’s permanent representative to the IAEA, looked nervous even as his colleagues expressed optimism over the outcome of the meet.

Gregory L.Schulte, America”s ambassador to the IAEA, was the most cheerful, sprightly and quietly confident throughout the day. Schulte emerged often from the closed door meeting to say: “We are close to reaching a consensus, guys. We are almost through, guys. I did not think it would take this long.”

Schulte was the most photographed person of the day along with Kakodkar.

The Pakistani delegation preferred to keep to the sidelines and when questioned if Pakistan will oppose the agreement, ambassador Shahbaz replied: “We plan nothing of the sort”.

After having agreed to approve the agreement by consensus, Pakistan asked to air its views on the issue.

According to an IAEA official who attended the meeting, Pakistan reiterated there should be no discrimination and that if India was given de facto nuclear status, Pakistan expected to be treated the same way.

IAEA director general Mohammad ElBaradei injected some cheer to the Pakistani camp when he concluded the exciting but exhausting day with a press conference where he said there was no reason why Pakistan should not enjoy benefits similar to India’s.

“Pakistan is in a similar situation. Pakistan too badly needs energy and a lot of energy that is essential for development and security,” ElBaradei said.

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