India atomic chief to start IAEA nuclear talks

India atomic chief to start IAEA nuclear talks

New Delhi: The top Indian atomic official will start talks this week with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of efforts to clinch a landmark nuclear deal with the US, his office said Tuesday.

India’s atomic energy commission chief Anil Kakodkar was due to begin talks on Wednesday in Vienna with UN atomic energy chief Mohamed ElBaradei, an official in his Mumbai office told AFP.

The talks come after the Indian government overcame stiff opposition last week from its communist allies, who had threatened to bring down the government.

The leftist parties on Friday allowed the government led by the Congress party to move a step closer to implementing the accord by starting talks over an international safeguards agreement for its civilian reactors.

The Indian government on Monday said it would continue to consult left-wing opponents on the deal.

“The issue is to go out and do an India-specific safeguards agreement and that is what we are going to do and we will do it," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters.

Under the deal, India will separate its civilian and military programmes and place 14 of its 22 nuclear plants under international safeguards in return for civilian nuclear technology.

The US in return has promised to amend the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954 which prevents the United States from trading nuclear technology with nations such as India that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

India tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and 1998 and, as a result, is currently banned from buying fuel for atomic reactors and related equipment.

Separately, India also has to negotiate an agreement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls global atomic trade.