International Atomic Energy Agency governors have adopted a plan for inspecting India's nuclear facilities. The move is a key step that had to be satisfied before India and the United States can go ahead with a planned nuclear cooperation agreement. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.
The safeguards agreed upon by the U.N. nuclear watchdog allow India to import nuclear fuel and technology from the United States and other countries. In return India will open up its civilian nuclear installations to international inspectors. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei addressed the governors at the meeting in Vienna.
"We expect to start implementing the agreement at new facilities in 2009," he said. "Facilities will be notified by India to the agency in stages, and the Secretariat will keep you informed when facilities are submitted for safeguards. As with other safeguards agreements between the agency and member states, the agreement is of indefinite duration."
India, which has tested nuclear weapons, is one of three nuclear powers that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The other two are Israel, which is believed to have a number of weapons and India's regional rival Pakistan which has also conducted nuclear tests.
Malcolm Grimston of Chatham House, the London-based research center, says some Indians felt entering into a deal with the IAEA would place them at a disadvantage over Pakistan.
"I think this deal is America's attempt to bring India closer to the non-proliferation treaty," he said. "But clearly many Indians feel this will reduce their ability to respond to what they see as a nuclear threat from Pakistan so its trying to tread a very narrow line between on the one hand ensuring that the world nuclear security is protected as far as possible but doing it in such a way that the Indian people will accept some curbs on their nuclear activities."
Speaking after the meeting, ElBaradei said he believed the agreement is good for India and the world. The U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Greg Schulte, said it represented a major step forward to opening civilian nuclear cooperation with India and strengthen non-proliferation.
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed it as a milestone in India's cooperation with the international community in the peaceful use of atomic energy.
To carry out the deal, India must strike separate agreements with the IAEA and with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which comprises countries that export nuclear material, before it can go to the U.S. Congress for approval.