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We are not there yet
August 02, 2008
The euphoria over the consensus approval of the safeguards agreement by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency must be tempered by the fact that nearly 30 countries made a variety of statements, which, in some cases, detracted from the universal support for it.
As one of the statements made it clear, the architect of the consensus was none other than Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the IAEA.
One delegation said that it would not have joined the consensus, had it not been for the robust support the DG gave to the agreement. The DG's assertion that the agreement met the needs of India and the legal requirements of the IAEA swung the opinion of the Board in India's favour even though many countries had reservations about the agreement.
Without naming Pakistan, he made it clear that this was indeed a precedent which could apply in identical circumstances. It was obvious to all that Pakistan would have to clear the A Q Khan scandal before aspiring to such treatment.
In stressing the need for inclusiveness, he even mentioned the need for Pakistan and Israel also to come into the non-proliferation mainstream, a point he had been making long before the India deal came about. By stressing the development and non-proliferation dimensions of the deal, the DG carried conviction.No amount of bilateral efforts by India would have given the same results, as was seen by the attitude of countries like Austria, Ireland and Switzerland [Images], which have excellent bilateral relations with India.
Iran was explicit in its accusation that the deal represented the 'double standards' of the US, which was willing to accommodate India's energy needs, while opposing similar aspirations on the part of Iran. These statements may well reverberate in the NSG chambers, where the soothing presence of the DG of IAEA will not be there.
The whole exercise of exemption is based on certain conditions, which did not exist before, like the 123 agreement and the IAEA safeguards agreement. Is it realistic to expect that the NSG would grant the exemption without reference to any of these documents? Would such references be considered conditional or not? The whole exercise of the deal is based on certain conditions that India put forward in the Joint Statement of 2005.
How can the NSG not take note of those conditions? If India takes the position that no conditions will be acceptable, a situation may arise when India will have to walk away from the deal at that stage. Hopefully, India has its own understanding as to what unconditional exemption means. A certain flexibility in this position is essential to carry the deal through.
But the whole concept of the Additional Protocol is meant to close the loopholes in the safeguards agreement and to give IAEA additional authority to deal with contingencies. The opponents of the deal in India will find the Additional Protocol a red rag to go for.
Some restrained satisfaction over the outcome at the IAEA and a realistic approach to the NSG decision will help us overcome the hurdles of the future. We are yet to arrive at our final destination and the path ahead is hazardous.
T P Sreenivasan, a former member of the Indian Foreign Service, was India's ambassador to the United Nations, Vienna [Images], and governor for India, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.
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