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N-deal: India begins talks with IAEA from Monday
February 24, 2008 19:51 IST
India will begin another round of talks with the global nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna from Monday for negotiating the safeguards agreement, a pre-requisite for the India-United States nuclear agreement.
The Indian delegation, led by R B Grover, a top official in the Department of Atomic Energy, reached Vienna today for the talks, which are expected to go on till the month-end.
Sources said Indian negotiators and the IAEA team are also keeping the agency's Board of Governors updated on the progress of the consultations so that it would be easier when it is officially taken up by the Board. But it is not known whether the issue will be taken up during the Board meeting beginning March 3, they added.
India and IAEA had held four rounds of talks in Vienna since November last, apart from several informal consultations to work out a new template on safeguards specifically for India.
Pressing India to speed up the implementation of the nuclear agreement, the US had recently said the negotiations with the IAEA and Nuclear Suppliers Group should be wound up by May, failing which New Delhi will not get a similar deal.
Unfazed by the US position, India said it was a complex issue and the negotiations would take some time to conclude.
"We have to get this done at the earliest but it has to be correctly done and it has to meet all the requirements and so it's a long technical process. There are several steps involved. We have to move step by step," Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar had said.
If the `agreed text' on India specific safeguards is not ready by this week, India may have to wait for the next Board meeting scheduled in June, which means it would miss the May deadline set by the US.
According to M R Srinivasan, member of AEC, the India-specific agreement is special. Once the draft is ready, it would come to the Commission for examination and then go to the UPA-Left political committee for approval.
New Delhi is working on a new template, which would be more of facility-specific safeguards and take into consideration Indian interest on uninterrupted fuel supply and stockpiling of fuel, as outlined in the bilateral 123 agreement from which the deal springs.
According to sources in IAEA, the Board of Governors was planning to insist on a five-week review of the final safeguards agreement before deciding on its approval.
If the two negotiating parties do not come to any conclusion, then the Board may take up the matter during its routine meeting in June, the sources added.
After the agreed text is ready, the next step was to get a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers' Group to allow India to participate in global nuclear commerce. India has sought `clean and unconditional' waiver from the 45-member group that controls the global nuclear trade.
The next NSG plenary meeting is scheduled for May, but the group could meet in a special session to consider the Indian exemption issue before that, the sources said.
The NSG had considered the draft US-India agreement (123 agreement) for civil nuclear cooperation, which was presented to the group by the US in September last and January 2008.
Once the IAEA agreed text and the draft on waiver for India by NSG are ready, they have to be approved by the US Congress.
Earlier this week, three influential US Senators � Joseph Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel - after a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] said the negotiations with IAEA and NSG should conclude by May, failing which New Delhi will not get a similar deal when the next government is formed in Washington.
The lawmakers told Singh that if the deal, which faces stiff opposition from his government's Left allies, is not taken up the US Congress by June and the process completed during the tenure of President George W Bush [Images], any new US administration will renegotiate the agreement.
Biden had said India will have to firm up the safeguards agreement and seek a waiver from the NSG before June to enable the US Congress to vote on it.