India gets IAEA pass for global nuclear trade

August 1st, 2008 - 8:45 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Vienna, Aug 1 (IANS) The India-US civil nuclear deal Friday cleared its first global test as the 35-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unanimously approved the India-specific safeguards agreement, a key step towards readmitting New Delhi into the privileged world of nuclear commerce. The 35-member IAEA board meeting lasted nearly four hours with an exhaustive discussion on different aspects of the safeguards agreement that aims at bringing 14 Indian nuclear power reactors under international safeguards over the next few years.

Batting vigorously for the India-specific safeguards agreement, IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei said it conformed to “all the legal requirements” of his agency.

“These are not comprehensive or full-scope safeguards (unlike with Nuclear Proliferation Treaty member states)… But it (agreement) satisfies India’s needs while maintaining all the agency’s legal requirements,” said ElBaradei.

The safeguards agreement is unique in as much as it breaks new ground by providing uninterrupted fuel supplies for the lifetime of safeguarded reactors and acknowledges India’s right to build a strategic reserve of fuel and the right to take corrective action in case of disruption of foreign-sourced fuel and technologies.

There was an attempt by some countries like Pakistan to force a vote in the IAEA on the India safeguards pact, but in the end India’s impeccable nuclear non-proliferation record prevailed as the board approved the historic pact unanimously.

With the IAEA board’s approval of the safeguards pact, all eyes are now on the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) - a cartel that controls the global flow of nuclear technology and fuel.

The US is keen that with not much time left for Congressional approval of the deal, the NSG meets sometime in the next fortnight so that the so-called 123 bilateral agreement can be approved by the US Congress before it adjourns ahead of the November US presidential elections.

The US has already sent a draft of exemption sought in the NSG to India. There are some differences over the draft, but Indian officials are hopeful that these issues will be resolved and the NSG will give India a “clean waiver,” without any conditions outside the July 18, 2005 civil nuclear understanding that was signed in a joint statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush.

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