An Indian delegation is leaving for Vienna on Wednesday for the third round of crucial talks with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a safeguards agreement, a follow up to the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.
The team will hold talks at the IAEA headquarters on the 'agreed text' for India-specific safeguards, one of the pre-requisites for operationalisation of the deal, first mooted in July 2005, according to Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) sources in Vienna.
This round of talks, coming after a round each in November and December, could possibly be the final one, the sources said. The Indian team is headed by Ravi B Grover, Director, Strategic Planning of DAE.
Once the text on safeguards agreement is finalised, it has to be approved by the UPA-Left committee.
The text, drafted by the IAEA, is expected to be put before the 15-member political committee for deliberation, the sources said.
The first talks on the safeguards were initiated by IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei and Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar on November 21.
The country witnessed a see-saw battle during 2007 over the nuclear deal with Opposition BJP and the Left parties, outside supporters of the UPA Government, almost stalling it.
Left parties, however, relented and allowed the Government to go ahead with the IAEA talks, but later said that the deliberations should conclude by end of December '07.
Internatioanl cooperation in nuclear commerce is possible only after the India-specific safeguards were finalised with IAEA followed by 'clean' and 'unconditional' waiver for India from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) and the "updown" vote of US Congress on the 123 agreement.
As uncertainties loomed larger over the deal during the major part of 2007, the DAE, which had hoped to get a few imported power plants and fuel to expand the indigenous nuclear power programme, had to speed up its efforts to explore and mine uranium to avoid fuel crunch.
Even as the deal is mired in controversy, several US and French companies were competing to do business with their Indian counterparts, especially on fuel chain supply.
India almost clinched a bilateral nuclear agreement with Russia in early November but it could not materialise due to the absence of the safeguards pact with IAEA.