Vienna (Austria), Jul 19: The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that India is yet to remove all ambiguities regarding its draft safeguards pact vis-A-vis the India-US civilian nuclear deal.
Speaking after a briefing provided to it by Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Dr R B Gupta, Director (Strategic Planning) and Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), IAEA board members and some of the representatives of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) said they still had concerns about potential loopholes in the draft text, which could allow New Delhi to terminate the pact. "They answered some questions, but not very much to our satisfaction," a European diplomat who attended the meeting, was quoted by a foreign news agency, as saying.
Others said that ambiguities remained about unspecified "corrective measures" referred to in the text, which India may take if its nuclear fuel supply were interrupted.
Diplomats and advocates of non-proliferation believe this clause could allow India to terminate IAEA inspections if the US or other nations stopped supplying it with nuclear material after an Indian nuclear test.
Board members, however, said that they are likely to adopt the safeguards pact at their meeting on August 1.
Menon described the pact as a "good agreement, it's a good initiative and it'll work," after his less than one hour meeting with the IAEA Board of Governors and the truncated NSG.
He explained that the corrective measures to be taken "depended on circumstances."
The inspection agreement is part of its nuclear deal with the US, under which New Delhi agreed to separate its nuclear energy sector from the nuclear weapons programme. In return, the US will provide nuclear fuel and technology for civilian power reactors.
Board members were told India would circulate a so-called separation plan in the coming days or weeks, to clarify what will be inspected by the IAEA.
Several IAEA members say that the safeguards agreement gives India too much discretion in deciding what facilities would be monitored and when the IAEA would start doing so.
European Union members on the board have demanded another formal briefing by IAEA officials that will take place on August 25, as Friday's meeting was an informal event.
After the IAEA Board approves the text, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the 45-nuclear exporting countries that define export control rules, have to make an exemption for India, as it is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Only then will the US Congress ratify the nuclear pact with India.
But first, India's government has to survive a confidence vote in parliament on July 22 over the nuclear deal with the US. Left parties say the pact would compromise India's strategic sovereignty.