Vienna: India will brief UN nuclear watchdog governors on Friday on its plan for inspections of atomic facilities, a precondition for launching a US-Indian nuclear trade accord, diplomats said on Wednesday.
The draft text was negotiated with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts and will be considered for approval by the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board at a special session on 1August.
The plan would subject India’s 14 declared civilian atomic reactors to inspections to pave the way for imports of “trigger list” nuclear items for peaceful use although India has shunned the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and tested atom bombs.
If IAEA governors approve the safeguards draft, India and the United States must win clearance from a 45-nation group that controls sensitive nuclear trade, then ratification by the U.S. Congress for the controversial nuclear deal to take force.
India, cranking up a charm offensive to defuse possible resistance over concerns its landmark pact with Washington will fray the NPT, will include Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) states in the briefing, according to diplomats who are close to the issue.
The diplomats said India needed to clarify language in the safeguards draft hinting inspections were not necessarily permanent, and possibly blurring what are supposed to be strict divisions between civilian and military nuclear sectors.
To have a corrective measures clause
They cited a “corrective measures” clause in the preamble hinting India could halt inspections if nuclear fuel imports were cut off, for example in protest at another nuclear test.
The lack of mention in the plan’s annexe of facilities to be covered by inspections has also raised eyebrows, they said.
“This is not a 100% standard safeguards document. We are in unprecedented territory. There are quite a lot of ambiguities we need to resolve,” said a European diplomat, who like others asked for anonymity due to political sensitivities.
“India’s answers will decide whether there is smooth sailing at the board meeting or not,” the diplomat said. India and the United States are counting on approval since IAEA safeguards lawyers vetted the draft and the majority of Indian nuclear facilities would be opened to UN monitoring, ushering India towards the non-proliferation mainstream.
IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei supports the initiative. The unconditional waiver India wants from the NSG may be harder to pull off due to fears of upsetting non-proliferation principles by doing nuclear trade with a non-NPT country that also has shunned the global test ban treaty.
The NSG, which decides policy by consensus only, is likely to need two meetings from early September to resolve the matter. Washington says the deal would forge a strategic partnership with the world’s largest democracy, help India meet soaring energy demand and open a nuclear market worth billions of dollars to exporters worldwide.