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IAEA has no obligation on fuel supplies or building strategic reserves: Karat

Vinay Kumar

Assurances by government in Parliament and outside have not been fulfilled, says Left

“There is only a vague mention of corrective measures in preamble”

Statement says the Left parties’ concerns are not addressed

NEW DELHI: The Left parties on Friday maintained that the government’s move to go ahead with the IAEA safeguards agreement would be harmful to India’s interests.

They said it was clear that the agreement did not address the fundamental problems in the controversial Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement with the U.S. on civilian nuclear cooperation.

“It did not take much for us to study the safeguards agreement. There is nothing unexpected in it and we asked the government not to go ahead with it because it is one step forward in operationalising the 123 Agreement,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat told journalists at a press conference.

His senior party colleague and Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, CPI national secretary D. Raja, and G. Devarajan of the Forward Bloc were present.

Fuel supply

Mr. Karat said the safeguards agreement did not take care of fuel supply, strategic reserves and corrective measures regarding fuel supply. He said that as a regulatory body, the International Atomic Energy Agency had no obligation on either fuel supplies or building strategic reserves.

“As a result of operationalising the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal, India will place its costly imported reactors under perpetual IAEA safeguards and risk their permanent shutdown in case it fails to toe the U.S. line on foreign policy issues,” a joint statement by the general secretaries of the CPI(M), the CPI, the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India said.

The four-page statement said the text of the safeguards agreement was “hidden” from the Left parties and people in order to suppress the fact that India “is about to bind its entire civilian nuclear energy programme into the IAEA safeguards in perpetuity without getting concrete assurances for uninterrupted fuel supply, right to build strategic reserves and right to take corrective steps in case fuel supplies are stopped.”

It said the so-called “India-specific safeguards” agreement sent to the IAEA Board of Governors made it clear that the repeated assurances by the UPA government in Parliament and outside, on securing uninterrupted fuel supply assurances and strategic fuel reserves, had not been fulfilled.

But for the facilities India proposed to put under the IAEA safeguards, it would be treated as a non-nuclear weapons state.

No special rights

“Clearly, India will not have any special rights in its safeguarded facilities and this directly contradicts the assurances given by the Prime Minister to Parliament. Nuclear weapon states, as defined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, have the right to take any facility out of safeguards, a right India will not have for the reactors it is offering to the IAEA for safeguards,” it pointed out.

The statement said there was only a vague mention of “corrective measures” in the preamble. As against the vagueness of the “corrective measures” figuring in the preamble, what was spelt out clearly in the body of the agreement was that India could withdraw its facilities from safeguards only if it was jointly agreed to between India and the IAEA and if these facilities were no longer usable for any nuclear activity.

Posing a key question with respect to the IAEA safeguards, the Left wondered how it could be ensured that once India’s civilian reactors came under safeguards in perpetuity, the country would not be blackmailed by withholding of nuclear fuel supplies, as the U.S. did in Tarapur following Pokhran-I.

The Left said the final arbiter of any interpretation of the agreement and dispute settlement was the IAEA Board of Governors, whose decision would be final.

“If India is held non-compliant, though it is not so by its own interpretation, it can be referred to the Security Council for action, including sanctions. The Iran case is an example.”

The statement said the Left parties’ concerns were not addressed. These are:

“In case the U.S. or other countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) renege on fuel supply assurances for imported reactors, will India have the ability to withdraw these reactors from the IAEA safeguards? If the U.S./NSG countries renege on fuel supply assurances, can we withdraw our indigenous civilian reactors from the IAEA safeguards? What are the corrective steps India can take if fuel supplies are interrupted by the U.S./NSG countries?

“What are the conditions that India must fulfil if corrective steps are to be put into operation? If we have to bring nuclear fuel from the non-safeguarded part of our nuclear programme for these reactors in case of fuel supply assurances not being fulfilled, will we have the ability to take it back again?

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