India is trying to avoid a vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meet on Aug 1 even though one of its members, Pakistan, has circulated a letter marking its opposition to the safeguards agreement that New Delhi is planning to sign with the IAEA.
"We know of Pakistan's opposition, but we are still trying to avoid a voting at the meeting of the Board of Governors scheduled for next week," an external affairs ministry official told IANS in New Delhi on Saturday.
South Block is confident that there is "overwhelming" support for the proposed Indian safeguard agreement among the IAEA members. The view has also been publicly shared by the United States.
Gregory Schulte, US ambassador to the IAEA, said he expected the India-specific safeguards agreement to be approved by the 35-member Board of Governors on Aug 1.
"I am expecting that the Board of Governors will approve this agreement on Aug 1. It is a sound agreement based upon established safeguards principles. This is an agreement that has benefits for everyone in the region, including India's neighbours," said Schulte in Vienna on Friday.
He added: "Basically India is committed to move into the non-proliferation mainstream and the safeguards agreement will allow India to put 14 of its 22 nuclear facilities under safeguards. In future all of India's civil reactors will come under safeguards and this is a benefit to all."
India has to get the safeguards agreement approved and subsequently get a waiver from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) before it can place the 123 agreement on civil nuclear energy agreement before the US Congress for approval. It wants the nod from the US Congress before September to ensure it can sign the nuclear agreement with the US under the George W. Bush presidency.
The feedback from most other member countries of the IAEA has also been encouraging for India. But unlike the NSG, where decision is by consensus, the IAEA board has the provision for a vote, though the last time there was a vote it was two years back on Iran's nuclear programme.
"Having made their position public it may now be difficult for Pakistan not to ask for a vote," the official said. But he added that India was hopeful that countries like the US or China that have influence on Pakistan will be able to convince it not to go for a vote.
"Even if Pakistan abstains, it is good for us, though ideally we want the safeguards agreement to be approved by the board without a vote," the official said.
Nineteen countries are members of both the IAEA board as well as in the NSG. They are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, UK and the US.
The main concern of the Indian establishment is on one of these 19 countries rallying behind Pakistan. This may create a situation where a vote at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting becomes unavoidable. But the worry is not over winning the vote at the IAEA Board. India is confident it will get the required support even if there is voting.
More important, and something that is worrisome for India, such opposition by one of these 19 countries can then be carried over to the NSG, where all decision are taken by consensus and not through voting.