Saran travels to Dublin to enlist support in IAEA board


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy and former foreign secretary Shyam Saran will leave for Dublin Wednesday morning to enlist Ireland’s support in the board of governors’ of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that will discuss an India specific safeguards agreement Aug 1.

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Ireland is a member of the IAEA board of governors as well as the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and is seen by India as a “tough nut to crack” because of its strong anti-nuclear proliferation stand.

India needs to get its safeguards agreement with the IAEA and also get an exemption from the NSG before the 123 agreement it plans to sign with the US for cooperation on civil nuclear energy can be placed before the US Congress for its final approval.

Saran is one in a select list of senior Indian envoys who are likely to leave for different world capitals in the next few days to engage with members of the IAEA board of governors and those in the NSG to ensure they support the initiatives for cooperation on civil nuclear energy with New Delhi, sources in the foreign ministry said.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Prithviraj Chavan and the prime minister’s special envoy to the Middle East Chinmaya Gharekhan are among those who are to travel abroad later this week.

While Menon is likely to go to Washington to coordinate with United States officials on how the two countries will take the issue to the IAEA and subsequently to the NSG, Chavan is scheduled to leave for Beijing soon to talk to the Chinese leadership to enlist their support, the sources added.

Sharma, who left for Singapore Monday night to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) ministerial meeting, will meet some of the key leaders there before leaving for a tour of the African countries that are in the IAEA board and the NSG.

Gharekhan will travel to Egypt and some other countries in the region to ensure they vote in India’s favour. The two other secretaries in the Ministry of External Affairs, N. Ravi and Nalin Surie, are also likely to travel to some of the countries that are either in the IAEA board or in the NSG to get them to rally behind the Indian cause.

The IAEA board of governors has 35 members, of which 19, including the US, Britain, France, Russia and China, are also members of the NSG.

India is a founder member of the IAEA board, but not a member of the NSG. Though it will actively participate in the IAEA discussions, slated for Aug 1, it will not be a party to the debate in the NSG. For the latter, it will depend on the US to convince the 45 members in the group to get the requisite amendments in its guideline for commerce on civil nuclear energy between its members and India.

Pakistan, a member of the IAEA board, has already raised objections to the proposed safeguards agreement that India has sought with the agency. But India wants to ensure that other members, especially ones like Ireland, do not end up supporting the Pakistani opposition.

This is why Saran’s first visit is to Ireland. But after that he is also likely to travel to New Zealand, Australia and some other Scandinavian countries that have also been a little reluctant to agree to amendments to enter into commerce with India on civil nuclear energy in the next few days.