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IAEA meets on Friday to discuss N-deal

The IAEA Board of Governors will meet on Friday in a crucial session to consider approval of the India-specific safeguards pact, a key step for operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

world Updated: Jul 31, 2008 16:05 IST

As India hopes to resume nuclear commerce with the global community after a gap of 34 years, the IAEA Board of Governors meets in Vienna on Friday in a crucial session to consider for approval a key step for operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

If the 35-member Board approves the India-specific safeguards agreement by consensus leading to the signing of an unprecedented document, it would pave the way for India's integration into the world of nuclear commerce.

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar, who has already arrived in Vienna, will have a series of meetings to ensure a smooth sailing at the IAEA Board of Governors and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), sources said.

He is expected to hold talks with all NSG members also during his stay to bring them on board for giving India a "clean and unconditional waiver" ahead of the group's first meeting early next month. India is a member of IAEA but not the NSG.

Kakodkar told PTI he would take part in all discussions including the negotiations that are underway on an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA agreement will form the basis for approaching the Nuclear Suppliers Group for removal of restrictions on nuclear trade with India and the so-called bilateral agreement with US in the form of the 123 agreement which gives exemption to New Delhi for nuclear commerce with that country.

New Delhi is working on an India-specific 'Additional Protocol'. There is a possibility that the IAEA Board might insist that the India-specific 'Additional Protocol' is signed along with the safeguards agreement to enable operationalisation of inspection of the nuclear units declared by New Delhi as civil.

An Agreement on the 'Additional Protocol' is mandatory as per the Indo-US joint statement on the civil nuclear cooperation of July 18, 2005, which was issued during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Washington visit.

Additional protocol is just not another document but an instrument to operationalise and set forth a protocol to enable the agency to carry out its mandate as per the agreement, experts said.

For the first time India will be going for an India-specific additional protocol and since it is a de facto nuclear weapons state, INFCIR 540, which is meant for non-weapon state, may not be directly applicable to India, A N Prasad, former director of Bhabha Atomic Energy Agency, said adding there may be some exceptional conditions.

Meanwhile, the US is preparing a note to circulate among the 45 NSG member countries next week after tomorrow's IAEA meeting.

A draft of that note was supposed to have been given to Indian government for their opinion before finalising it, a US strategic planner said.

Twenty-six of the IAEA board members are also part of NSG.

On July 18, New Delhi had organised a meeting to brief members of the IAEA board and NSG on the India-specific safeguards agreement.