Austria has indicated that it will 'probably support' India's safeguards agreement despite its fiercely anti-nuclear policy - just days before the IAEA board meets in India on Friday.
"Austria is reluctant. We would be happier if India explored other sources of energy to meet its growing needs but Austria also understands that every country has its own specific needs. Austria will probably support India on August 1," a senior Austrian diplomat told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Austria is under pressure from the Green Party, the third largest political party in the country, to vote against India's nuclear deal with the USA both at the IAEA board of governor's meet and at the meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
"The Greens are very aware that the 123 Agreement could have a potential backlash on international nuclear non-proliferation. We are also concerned that this agreement will weaken negotiations with other countries with nuclear ambitions like Iran," Austrian Green Party spokesperson Ulrike Lunacek told IANS.
Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik has often said that from her country's point of view, there are fundamental reservations against all modifications that impact the established system of nuclear non-proliferation or hinder its functioning.
Plassnik has said in the past that the 123 Agreement will be reviewed accordingly but has never been categorical over Austria's vote for or against the agreement.
Along with the Scandinavian countries, as also Ireland, Switzerland and New Zealand, Austria, a member of IAEA's 35-member board of governors and of the NSG, has a strong non-proliferation lobby that disproves of any deviation from the NPT norms.
Along with these countries, Austria is passionate over the issue of nuclear non- proliferation. Austria is also a member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). There are 26 countries that are members of both the IAEA board of governors and the NSG.
The 123 Agreement has to be endorsed by the US Congress after the NSG clears the deal before India and the US formally sign the pact to make the deal operational.
India has sent ministers and diplomats to capitals of various NSG countries to seek their support in the nuclear cartel for its nuclear deal with the US. Despite Pakistan's attempt to force a vote in the IAEA board - which the US has now nixed - New Delhi expects that the board will unanimously approve the India-specific safeguards agreement at its Aug 1 meeting.
The US has spoken to the powers-that-be in Pakistan and is hopeful they will see the nuclear deal "in its true light" and not try to block it in the IAEA.
US ambassador to Austria Gregory L. Shulte said last week that the agreement should be cleared by the IAEA on Aug 1 as it is of benefit to everyone in the region, including India's neighbours.
Unlike the IAEA, where voting is allowed, Austria's stand is crucial at the NSG meet that works only by consensus. At the NSG the support of every member country, especially those with strong positions on non-proliferation, is the key for India.