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India, IAEA sign safeguards accord


New Delhi/Vienna : India Monday inked an inspection agreement with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – a step that will enable India to access global civil nuclear equipment and fuel.

India’s Ambassador to Vienna Saurabh Kumar and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei inked the India-specific safeguards agreement at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna.

“It is part of India’s integration into international civil nuclear community,” Saurabh Kumar told IANS minutes after the agreement was signed.

“This is the first step in implementing various bilateral civil nuclear pacts India has signed so far,” Saurabh Kumar added.

“The agreement is based on goodwill and trust between India and the IAEA. It’s an assurance to the international community to enable the resumption of international civil nuclear cooperation with India,” the envoy said.

Senior officials of the Department of Atomic Energy, including director (strategic planning) Ravi B. Grover, were present at the signing of the agreement.

India has already signed bilateral civil nuclear agreements with the US, France, Russia and Kazakhstan.

The 35-member board of the IAEA approved the India-specific safeguards agreement Aug 1 last year – an important step that paved the way for a waiver by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on Sep 6.

The safeguards agreement is unique in as much as it allows India to enter global nuclear commerce by placing 14 of its civilian nuclear reactors under international safeguards while retaining its military nuclear reactors.

According to India’s separation plan (civilian and military) unveiled in 2006, a total of 14 reactors, including the six which are already under IAEA safeguards, will be placed under India-specific safeguards by 2014.

The Department of Atomic Energy will file a declaration to the IAEA on which facilities would be placed under safeguards and in what time frame.

The inking of the safeguards agreement with IAEA clears the way for the actual resumption of nuclear trade between India and the world.

The safeguards agreement has, however, to be ratified by the Indian government before it can use the pact to import nuclear reactors and fuels.

The signing of the safeguards agreement will be followed by negotiations on an additional protocol. Negotiations have begun, but the two sides have yet to evolve a draft of the additional protocol.