India-IAEA negotiations next month


New Delhi/Vienna : As the US briefed the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Vienna Thursday, the Indian government firmed up a tentative timeline to conclude its negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by next month – a move that is set to force a confrontation with its Leftist allies.

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The US briefed the 45-member NSG in Vienna on the India-US nuclear deal and sought a change in the guidelines of the nuclear cabal to enable the resumption of global civil nuclear commerce with New Delhi.

Before going for the closed-door meeting of the IAEA, Richard Stratford, director at the Office of Nuclear Energy Affairs in the US State Department, underlined the need for both sides to finish the next steps to pave the way for operationalistion of the deal before the end of the year.

Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar discussed the nuclear deal with IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei and told him that India will get back to the UN nuclear watchdog soon for safeguards negotiations.

Kakodkar tactfully remained quiet about the status of India’s negotiations with IAEA. In New Delhi too, the government chose not to comment on this sensitive issue that can further alienate its Left allies.

Top Indian nuclear officials have already etched a broad blueprint of the proposed safeguards agreement which will not take long to finalise after New Delhi opens negotiations with the IAEA next month, an informed source told IANS.

ElBaradei’s visit to India in October will also provide an opportunity for preliminary discussions on the safeguards agreement.

The board of governors of the IAEA is likely to discuss the issue of safeguards agreement at its meeting in November.

Once the India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA is finalized, the US will call a special meeting of the NSG and press for rule change that will end India’s decades-old isolation from the international nuclear mainstream.

India has sought a clean, unconditional exemption from the NSG. The idea is to finish these two steps this year so that the 123 bilateral agreement can be endorsed by the US Congress early next year, the source said.

But the government’s determination to bring the nuclear deal to fruition is set to bring it into a collision with the Left parties.

The government and the Left parties held their second joint meeting Wednesday that ended without any breakthrough with the Left parties reiterating their rejection of the deal which they contend is aimed at bringing India into a strategic alliance with the US.

The Left parties have demanded a six-month pause on the operationalisation of the nuclear deal. They have also asked the government not to go ahead with the negotiations with IAEA on India-specific safeguards.