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Scientists wary of safeguards agreement text

July 10, 2008 15:29 IST

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Criticising the draft text of the India-specific safeguard agreement, two top scientists have warned that it is "prejudicial" to the national interest and that it was in no way different from the safeguard agreement of non-weapon states.

Former Atomic Energy Commission chairman P K Iyengar and former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A Gopalakrishnan said the draft text was identical to the International Atomic Energy Aagency Circular 66 on safeguards to non-weapon states and that it provided no assurance on fuel supply.

A third scientist, former BARC director A N Prasad, however, said the text is generally all right but there is nothing India-specific.

Gopalakrishnan said although the preamble mentioned about the corrective measures promised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] on the floor of the House, the text is not satisfactory. But Prasad said though corrective measures may not be very clear in the text, they are there without being explicit.

"There is nothing India-specific except that IAEA has not made objection to India's strategic programme," Iyengar said.

Iyengar regretted the "colonial mentality" and said that the draft text was made public by the Indian government only after it was "leaked" first by an American Web site."

"Even after 60 years of Independence, the colonial thinking persists," he said adding, the government was terming the text as "classified documents" until an American Web site put it out.

Even the IAEA had said in its press release on Wednesday night that the text would not be made public.

"It is interesting to note that the text, which was announced on Wednesday as 'classified' by the External Affairs ministry was made public on Thursday just based on a leakage of the text in some American Web site on Thursday morning," Iyengar said.

Prasad said the safeguards text was unduly kept under wraps by the government for reasons best known to it and created a turmoil of sorts.

"On a quick look at the text it is evident that it generally follows the standard safeguards practices already in vogue in the IAEA and there is hardly any India-specific article," he said.

IAEA has guarded against Indian withdrawal from safeguards at any time without mentioning the word "perpetuity".

Corrective measures are not explicitly dealt with and left somewhat vague, he said.

The broad contours of the Additional Protocol could have been discussed since the most intrusive aspects of the implementation of safeguards are usually packed in the protocol, Prasad said.

However, safeguards is one aspect but the deal as a whole has many larger issues on which India has to be concerned about including those which could be detrimental to the long term national interests, Prasad said.

In the whole agreement there is no recognition of India's weapons status, he said.

Other DAE scientists under the condition of anonymity said the separation plan, which has invited much controversy in the country, is inviable and formed the core of this safeguard agreement text.

"The concerns that inspections as applicable to non-nuclear weapon states allowing intrusive, at-site inspections 'on intent' has not gone away," one of the DAE scientist said.

"Such inspections have become the norm under the Additional Protocol following the problem in Iraq," he said.

It is still unclear how military installations and facilities, which do not attract safeguards like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research will remain exempted and protected from intrusion in the course of such safeguards which are applicable in perpetuity as indicated in the text, the scientists said.

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