India is to sign and ratify a key UN convention on protecting nuclear material that Washington had insisted on as part of the India-US nuclear deal.
The cabinet on Friday approved India's accession to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), as also an amendment the Indian Extradition Act making unauthorised trade in nuclear material an international offence.
India's signing of the convention would "strengthen the international legal framework to combat terrorism", Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters on Friday after a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
It would "also enhance international cooperation in investigation, prosecution and extradition of those who commit terrorist acts and acts of sabotage involving radioactive material or nuclear devices and facilities", the minister added.
The CPPNM is a convention of the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It aims to prohibit signatory countries from conducting sale, purchase or movement through their territory of any nuclear material from any unauthorised party or non-signatory country.
Washington had made the signing of the convention a pre-requisite for India to get nuclear material under the India-US civil nuclear energy agreement.
The signatories to the convention, at a conference at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in July 2005, adopted an amendment "with a view to strengthening the provisions of the convention, in particular, for including terrorist acts and acts of sabotage against nuclear materials/nuclear facilities among the offences that state parties are required to make punishable, under their domestic laws".
This makes it legally binding for the signatories to protect nuclear facilities and material in peaceful domestic use, storage as well as transport.
The convention also provides for expanded cooperation between states on rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage and prevent and combat related offences.
The amendment to the Extradition Act also seeks to make unauthorized trade in nuclear material anywhere in the world an international offence for which the concerned person could be extradited to a country with which India has an extradition treaty, official sources said.