PM meets ElBaradei, mum on safeguards talks


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday met UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei and explained to him the complex political situation that has forced the government to put safeguards negotiations with the IAEA on hold – a key step towards implementing the India-US nuclear deal.

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Manmohan Singh, however, hinted that after extensively discussing the deal with the Left parties, the government would take a political call on beginning negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an official source said.

ElBaradei, a staunch supporter of the India-US nuclear deal, appreciated the government’s circumspect attitude towards the IAEA negotiations, but conveyed to the prime minister that clinching a safeguards agreement would not be difficult given India’s past record of dealing with the UN nuclear agency.

He also left it to the prime minister to decide the timing of the negotiations with the IAEA, saying he would wait for the political dust to settle before India approaches the UN agency for safeguards agreement for its civil nuclear reactors.

After meeting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday, ElBaradei made a strong pitch for the nuclear deal, saying it would help India in sustaining its 10 percent economic growth and enable the country to become an “equal partner” in the global nuclear order.

“There is no deadline. When India is ready for the safeguards agreement, we’ll negotiate,” he said.

“As a friend of India, I would like to see India making full use of nuclear energy to enable it to sustain its 10 percent growth rate,” said ElBaradei, who began a four-day visit from Mumbai Monday.

The removal of nuclear trade restrictions “would be a major step towards regularizing the relationship between India and the international community in nuclear trade”, he said Wednesday. He also stressed that the path-breaking nuclear deal would make India not only a recipient but also a supplier of nuclear technology in the new global nuclear order.

The Left parties have put the government in a corner over the safeguards negotiations with the IAEA and warned they may withdraw support to the government if it went ahead with operationalising the nuclear deal.

The prospect of an early election next year, in the event of the Left combine withdrawing support to the ruling coalition, has forced the government to put on hold negotiations, at least until the next UPA-Left meeting Oct 22.