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No IAEA draft, but outline ready

Once a political directive is issued, the draft will be up within 24 hours, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2008 03:29 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

There is no draft India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, but the outline of a draft, reflecting India's concerns, has been agreed upon.



The IAEA is okay with the parameters and once a political directive is issued, the draft can be readied within 24 hours, a top government official told

Hindustan Times

.



"All our concerns have been taken on board," the official said, "and the IAEA is okay with them. Since it was the first time they were doing such an agreement, it took time to negotiate."



External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to convey the government's direction when he visits Washington between March 23 and 26.



With continuing political uncertainty over the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement, the official conceded that Delhi's credibility would take a big hit if the deal does not go through.



"The government, and by extension, India's credibility would take a big hit," the official said. "The government's ability to deliver would be in question," the official said. "Bilateral relations between India and the United States would continue and expand on the various fronts of engagement, but the government's credibility would be at stake," while visiting US Assistant Secretary for South Asia Richard Boucher. "The touchstone for India-US relations was the exchange of students and scholars."



Refusing to be drawn into the domestic political controversy over the deal here, Boucher, who is "optimistic that it's a good deal for India, the US and non-proliferation" sought to correct the record on the impact of the Hyde Act.



"As far as the Hyde Act is concerned, it is a domestic legislation that determines what we do in our government. It's an enabling legislation whose main purpose is to allow us to conclude the nuclear agreement with India," Boucher said on Wednesday. "As for the 123 Agreement, that's what binds India and the US.... I frankly see no contradiction between the two," he said.



Boucher, who met Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon on Tuesday, was optimistic about concluding the deal, but reminded India there was "a very tight deadline" to do so.



"Time is short. There are time pressures. There are several pieces of deal puzzle," Boucher said.



After the India-specific safeguards draft is ready with the IAEA, "we need to allow a month or two in the Nuclear Suppliers Group which operates by consensus," Boucher said. India is seeking a "clean exemption" from the NSG.