Siddharth Varadarajan

‘A clearer picture likely to emerge in the next few days’

The IAEA secretariat to hold a briefing for BoG members today

NSG members seek clarification on Paragraph 5, 52 (c) and 105

New Delhi: “Consultations” at the International Atomic Energy Agency on India’s safeguards agreement are still going on but a clear picture of how the draft text will fare has yet to emerge.

For the past two weeks, the President of the IAEA’s board, Chilean ambassador Milenko E. Skoknic, has been holding “bilateral consultations” with each of the 35 nations represented on the nuclear watchdog’s apex body to gauge their response to the Indian text.

Speaking to The Hindu on condition of anonymity since the consultation process hasn’t ended, an IAEA Board source said it was hard to speculate about what might happen during the August 1 Governors meeting when the Indian draft is taken up for approval. “Many members do not as yet have precise instructions from their governments because the text is still being analysed by them,” the source said.

Consultation process

Since India is now actively lobbying Board members in their respective capitals, it is likely that a clearer picture could emerge in the next few days, the source added. Asked what traction the Pakistani campaign for introducing amendments and holding a vote on the agreement was achieving, the source declined to answer, saying this was one of the issues the “consultation process” was dealing with.

On July 25, the IAEA secretariat will hold a briefing for BoG members and field questions on any provision in the Indian draft that individual countries feel is not clear. The briefing is being seen by Indian officials as quite crucial. “Since the safeguards text was agreed to by India and the secretariat, we are confident that they will successfully address any questions or concerns that Board members might have,” an official said here.

During the July 18 briefing by Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon for Board members and members of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, most of the questions were raised by European members as well as Canada. Among the sections in the Indian safeguards draft that clarifications were sought on were:

• Paragraph 5 (the non-hindrance clause) which makes it clear that the IAEA would not interfere with “any activities involving the use by India of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components, information or technology produced, acquired or developed by India independent of this Agreement for its own purposes.”

• Paragraph 52 (c) and 105, allowing India to report to the Agency any disruption of operation of safeguarded facilities on account of material violation or breach of bilateral or multilateral arrangements to which India is a party.

• The reference to “corrective measures.”

One of the IAEA Board members noted the long and drawn out procedure specified in paragraphs 13, 14 and 15 for placing a facility under safeguards and argued that India might conceivably get away with never safeguarding any of its nuclear facilities. According to officials, Mr. Menon replied that there was no reason for India to do that since it was entering into a nuclear agreement in order to engage in international cooperation and that reactors not offered for safeguards would obviously not be eligible for cooperation.

In general, said the officials, the Indian argument in Vienna has tended to emphasise the similarity between the Indian agreement and the standard safeguards procedures envisaged by the IAEA’s Infcirc/66 template for standalone nuclear facilities in countries that are not party to the NPT.

“What we are trying to stress there is that the India specific character of the agreement stems mainly from the fact that it is an ‘umbrella agreement’ to cover all the facilities we are offering.”

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