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23 May 2024

India to finalise pact with nuclear watchdog

By Agencies

India is close to finalising the text for an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but may fail to save a nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington that remains clouded in political uncertainty.


The nod of the IAEA is among several mandatory clearances required for the contentious India-US nuclear pact that will give India access to American nuclear fuel and technology.


Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said talks had concluded with the IAEA and an agreement could be reached.


A source familiar with the India-IAEA talks in Vienna said a final text was close, but India still needed to confirm that there is an agreement on the text.


"Until then there is in fact no agreement," the source said on Sunday.


India's confirmation has been held up because the communist allies of the government oppose the nuclear deal, threatening to bring down the coalition government if it went ahead.


Mukherjee has so far stayed away from a showdown with the communists, saying the government would not move on the deal without the support of the leftists.


Caught up in India's domestic politics, time is running out for the deal. Still to come are clearances from the IAEA board of governors and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.


Then, the deal goes to the US Congress for final approval.


The US has said the pact may fall through if it doesn't reach the US Congress by July as a short legislative calendar before the November 4 US election could complicate its passage.


Mukherjee said his government had told Washington it cannot work to a deadline.


"There is a timeframe because they have an election process, Mukherjee told New Delhi Television in an interview aired on Sunday. "But so far as India is concerned we have mentioned to them that it is not possible for us to work within a specific timeframe".  (Reuters)