Mumbai: With the Indo-US nuclear deal lurching from one crisis to another, the country's top atomic scientist on Thursday asserted that indigenous civil and military nuclear programmes shall remain outside the purview of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).
The India-specific safeguards draft agreement, sent to the IAEA on 7 July and made public subsequently, clearly recognises the existence of "India's autonomous nuclear programme which will be free of the safeguards coverage," said Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). This, simply put, means that the agreement will not affect India's nuclear weaponisation programme.
According to Kakodkar: "Bearing in mind Article 11 of the statute, the Agency (IAEA) shall implement safeguards in a manner designed to avoid hampering India's economic or technological development, and not to hinder or otherwise interfere with any activities involving the use by India of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components, information or technology, produced, acquired or developed by India independent of the agreement for its own purpose."
In other words, "What will be civilian and what is not will strictly be a decision of India" said Kakodkar.
Also, in future if Indian material was used in a nuclear facility that was using foreign fuel then it the government could well decide to take it out of the safeguards regime.
According to Kakodkar, the task ahead was to convince IAEA's board of governors about the merits of the agreement and seek ratification. Following ratification, a declaration will have to be filed. Likely, the board will discuss the issue on 28 July.
"For the civilian co-operation to kick in we need the approval of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), a process which will be facilitated by the US," he said. With the NSG, he said that India will seek a "clean" exemption, as New Delhi can't be a part of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement since it had a weapons programme.
Kakodkar pointed out that the safeguards agreement recognised collaboration not only between India and the US, but also with other countries as well. The assurance of uninterrupted fuel supply, he said, had to be built on a commercial basis and on a government-to-government basis.