Radiating confidences

An elated India is elected chairpersons of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors and the organisation's member nations agree to strengthen security around nuclear plants

 
By Sumita Dasgupta
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- (Credit: India Today)FOR the Indian nuclear establishment, knual conference of the Inter I Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), om September 19 to 24 at Vienna, ded on a positive note. "We cer haw reason to feel satisfied, now &a has been elected chairperson board of governors of the IAEA. we a voice in the arena and this is p significant asset," says Air odore Jasjit Singh, director of the Wwd Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA).

The timing could not have been VWnune because discussions on Kul aspects of the safeguards mm under the 1AEA would begin With an articulate spokesperson Dwambaram, head of the Indian ffiwgy Commission, presenting or. we can at least hope to get our heard. We can tell the rest of about our constraints and and expect justice," exudes a nf idence visibly elated Savita Pande, a research officer at IDSA. Pande believes that if the Indian representatives do succeed in garnering international support, the civilian nuclear structure of the nation, which has tremendous potential, would come up with miraculous results.

Besides, India, like the rest of the new-nuclear nations, is in dire need of strong representation at such fora: the third Prepcom meeting of the Nuclear Non -proliferation Treaty conference in Geneva drove home the point that the nuclear powers have simply no inclination to support a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT).
Unfair advantage Although the 33 member states that make up the comprehensive test ban committee produced a 120-page draft agreement, France and China opposed pushing such an agreement through on the grounds that a freeze on testing would give an unfair advantage to the us arid Russia, which have more modern nuclear weapons. China insisted on the . right to conduct "peaceful" nuclear 'tests, as opposed to military ones - a distinction not entertained by other countries.

This disagreement caused Miguel Marin Bosch, chairperson of the Prepcom meeting, to comment: 'It will be a minor miracle if we manage to complete a CTBT in time for next year's non-proliferation conference." Discord is also imminent when the NPr comes up for renewal at the conference. While the 5 nuclear superpowers - the us, Russia, Britain, France, and China - are pushing for an indefinite extension, the wary new-nuclear nations are ready to extend it only for a "fixed period".

The conference was also of particular significance for the Indian subcontinent as the relationship between India and Pakistan, strained even at the best of times, acquired , a sharper and more dangerous edge after the recent asser tions by former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif that Pakistan possesses nuclear bombs. Besides, reports of a clandestine plutonium trade in Germany, and Pakistan's alleged involvement in the affair, added to the discomfiture of defence officials.

The conference discussed the issue of nuclear smuggling and reviewed the 1AEA safeguards system, which form the basis of the strategic equation between India and Pakistan. The IAEA member nations unanimously agreed to take measures to prevent nuclear smuggling by increasing security around nuclear plants, to improve the accounting and control of dangerous chemicals, and to convene a meeting of experts to discuss the problem in the future.

Time for caution Although Indian experts in this field appreciate these decisions, they feel that it is now time for the new-nuclear countries like India to exercise greater caution. "We must remember that the 1AEA is not a policing but a monitoring agency. It was authorised by the UN to use its muscles to dismantle and destroy Iraq's nuclear capabilities, but under no circumstances should this practice be allowed to continue," asserts Pande.

The experts fear that the 5 superpowers will at the first opportunity use the Agency as a tool to keep tabs on nuclear developments in the threshold states. "India is especially vulnerable to this kind of intrusion. The Western powers are extremely suspicious of our nascent indigenous nuclear programme. We are far ahead of all other new nuclear powers, add they would give their right arm to know what is going in our project sites," says Pande.

Pande, however, adds that it might be impossible to refuse to divulge information that would otherwise be out of the West's reach, although India is not under any obligation to open its sites for inspection. "We still depend upon them, albeit in limited areas, for fuel and other commodities. Besides, pressure can be put on us from different fronts. For example, the Indian government is now going all out to establish itself in the world market and will find it very difficult to withstand any pressure on the economic front," opines Pande.

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