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IAEA safeguards must come before NSG exemption

India will have to agree on a safeguards agreement with the IAEA before NSG can consider lifting curbs on nuclear commerce with New Delhi, reports Amit Baruah.
By Amit Baruah | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 27, 2007 09:17 PM IST

India will have to agree on a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) can consider lifting curbs on nuclear commerce with New Delhi.

Top South Block officials said on Monday that an India-specific safeguards agreement would not have to be concluded – as in signed and sealed but a frozen text was a must before the NSG would be in a position to exempt India from its decades-old guidelines.

There has been some confusion about the sequencing whether the NSG exemption would precede the India-specific safeguards or not – but now the officials have clarified that the IAEA accord will take precedence.

They explained to the Hindustan Times that the Indian schedule of lobbying the NSG countries had not been upset. “Some plans are in the works, but these have not yet been put into operation,” the officials maintained.

Clearly, the political crisis that continues to grip the Manmohan Singh Government continues has led to a loss of momentum in pushing ahead with the civilian nuclear deal, but the lobbying schedule can still hold up.

Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister’s special envoy on the nuclear deal, has only just returned from a four-nation tour that took him to Russia, Germany, Brazil and Argentina. If the political situation turns conducive, then the plan would be to send out several envoys to other members of the 45-nation NSG to seek their support.

Germany is a particularly key country for India since it will take over as NSG chair. Saran is said to have met several high-level German representatives, including a key diplomatic and national security adviser in Berlin.

The special envoy is also reported to have had productive meetings in Brazil and Argentina. In Brazil, Saran met Foreign Minister Celso Amorim while in Argentina he held talks with the Acting Foreign Minister.

In a related development, Philip Zelikow, former counselor to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a key pointman in the nuclear deal, said if Indian groups opposed to the accord back out they would be “looking a gift horse in the mouth”.

“There has never been a hidden agenda to try and control India's foreign policy. Any problems with this deal are domestic and political posturing for a future election. Maybe this is something that India’s democracy and civil society has to work through,” The Washington Post quoted him as saying.

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