“It will invite risk of nuclear terrorism”

Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Wednesday said the government was in no position to make public the safeguards agreement negotiated with the Secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency as “it would invite serious risk of nuclear terrorism which makes the country vulnerable.”

“In today’s day and age of international terrorism putting out information about [India’s] nuclear facilities invites serious risk of nuclear terrorism which makes the country vulnerable,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari told journalists here.

Responding to the charge of the Left parties that the government did not share with them the draft agreement in the United Progressive Alliance-Left nuclear panel, Mr. Tewari said “people not in the government cannot be made privy to a privileged document between the government and the IAEA. There is an in-built clause in the document that binds the government and the IAEA from sharing information with a third party. However, that did not stop the government from sharing the essence of the negotiations [with the Left in the panel meetings].”

Mr. Tewari said under the Model Safeguards Agreement, Article 15 of the Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement between the IAEA and the negotiating country, binds you with the protection of confidential information.

(In effect, however, the Article 15, enjoins upon the IAEA — not the negotiating country — to “maintain a stringent regime to ensure effective protection against disclosure of commercial, technological and industrial secrets and other confidential information coming to its knowledge, including such information coming to the Agency’s knowledge in the implementation of this Protocol.”)

Asked if the government would not have any problems with “putting out” the safeguards agreement on the website ‘after’ the IAEA Board of Governors approves it, Mr. Tewari said: “Once the Board approves the agreement then the IAEA system takes over. If the system provides for making the document public, so be it.”

Asserting that the India-U.S. nuclear agreement was the “key” to opening the doors of international nuclear power, he said the Left parties should have taken the time to really study why the government had reservations [on making the safeguards agreement public] before making such a “reckless and irresponsible” charge against the government.

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