The International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei believes that an India-specific safeguards agreement is a “non-issue.” This, at a time when the Left is threatening to bring down the UPA government on this very issue.
“This is a standard procedure that we usually do. We have four of them with India… I was surprised to see the focus on the safeguards agreement. Safeguards agreement is standard procedure,” he said in an exclusive interview to the Hindustan Times on Thursday.
ElBaradei, who will speak at the annual HT Leadership Summit on Friday, said, “However, having said all that, whether and when the Government will go ahead to operationalise the deal, as we call it here, is a matter, obviously, for the Government to decide.”
The IAEA chief, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over lunch, was clear that it wasn’t his job to offer any advice to the government. “This has to do with the government and the coalition. All I said is that I subscribe fully to the objectives of the Government that they need nuclear energy for development, to be a full partner in nuclear disarmament (efforts).”
ElBaradei, who described India as a nuclear weapons state, said it would take weeks to conclude a safeguards agreement with New Delhi if negotiations were to begin tomorrow. "We are ready. I don't think we would take very long. It would be weeks, not more than weeks.
We primarily work on the basis of a standard system we operate. Obviously, we have to tailor it as India-specific. The fundamental agreement is a standard agreement." On the issue of India's right to take corrective measures should nuclear fuel supplies be suspended under the civil nuclear deal with the US, ElBaradei pointed out that the IAEA was not part of the agreement.
"Obviously, when we have discussions with the government on the safeguards agreement, India's requirements will have to be satisfied but also the IAEA's requirements and standard agreements are…(adhered to). So, this is an issue."
"But, I would not put much emphasis on these issues. To me, the important thing is to build trust. If we have a safeguards agreement, it could be a beginning to trigger a new relationship between India and the international community in the nuclear field."
Expressing total satisfaction at the manner in which existing facility-specific safeguards were being implemented, ElBaradei said India wanted to make sure that it had uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuel.
"How that is going to be done, whether we need to refer to it in the safeguards agreement, these are detailed issues, which we still need to discuss…From what I read in the (Indo-US civil nuclear) agreement, I can see that there are a number of mechanisms to provide assurances of supply." "This agreement is US-India, but it opens the way to a broad variety of cooperation agreements between India and the international community. There is also an in-built clause in the agreement, which speaks of India building a buffer stock of nuclear fuel," he added.