IAEA Board needs 45 days notice to consider deal

Siddharth Varadarajan

Those opposed to India’s stand may insist on enough time to study the text

New Delhi: Discounting reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency could take a decision as early as this month on India’s proposed safeguards agreement, officials here said 45 days notice had to be given before any agenda item could be taken up for consideration by the IAEA Board of Governors.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board is on September 22, though the Governors are holding an irregular meeting in Vienna on July 28 to approve the IAEA’s annual technical cooperation budget.

India is not on the agenda of that meeting.

Urgent consideration

In principle, the only way to shorten the 45-day waiting period is for a country to seek urgent consideration of an agenda item. In such cases, usually reserved for allegations of safeguards violations, a Board of Governors meeting can be convened at 72 hours notice.

However, it is doubtful if approval of the India safeguards agreement could be considered an “urgent” matter.

Though the IAEA Secretariat is satisfied with the draft India safeguards agreement, Indian officials believe it is not in the country’s interest to treat the IAEA Board as some sort of rubber stamp. Several current members — especially Austria, Ireland and Switzerland — are known to be opposed to India being allowed to access nuclear material and equipment internationally and would likely insist on being given enough time to study the text. Other members of the 35-nation Board with reservations about the India deal include Pakistan, China, Japan and Finland.

The next meeting of the UPA-Left committee on the nuclear deal is slated for July 10. Were the government to decide upon formally approaching the Board of Governors for approval of its safeguards agreement the next day, the earliest the Board could meet to take a decision would be the fourth week of August or the first week of September.

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