Business Standard, India

THURSDAY 28 MAY 1998 

India may face flak but not censure at IAEA June meet
Vienna


27 MAY
THE International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to discuss India's nuclear tests at the June meeting of its governing body with several members indicating that they would criticise New Delhi.

An IAEA official said a number of countries want to raise the issue of the tests at the meeting of the 35-member board of governors.

However, the agency official discounted the possibility of the governing body penalising India by scrapping an IAEA-organised international seminar on nuclear power for developing countries, to be held in Mumbai in October.

Agency officials and diplomats in Vienna also doubt that India would come under any form of censure at the subsequent IAEA annual conference due in September when all member countries are present.

``They would express their concern and urge India to sign NPT CTBT and would end there,'' a developing nation diplomat said.

Members of the prestigious body are elected on a geographical basis but India is almost a permanent member because it has the most advanced civilian nuclear programme in South Asia and the Middle-East.

Australia had already sent a letter indicating the Indian nuclear tests should be on the agenda and signs are that it would criticise them. The agency official said some others were certain to join Australia.

IAEA had not received any request from Pakistan, but the official said: ``They would certainly do something.''

The agency official pointed to the events in 1995 when the French conducted a series of nuclear tests in the South Pacific in defiance of world opinion.

Several countries in the IAEA governing body had raised the issue at their annual June meeting and decided that the subsequent IAEA annual conference in September should debate the matter. A resolution on the matter was passed.

IAEA officials also pointed out that while India is not a signatory to the NPT, which is monitored by the agency, New Delhi does have agreements under which four reactors built with foreign help, notably of Canada, are under agency inspections.

Since the Candu-type reactors built with Canadian knowhow are considered to be a proliferation risk, the IAEA sends its inspectors more than four times a year, the usual pattern. But the agency official said so far there had been no violations by India of the existing safeguards agreements.

The IAEA also promotes the so-called``peaceful uses'' of nuclear technology in agriculture, medicine and industry. However, at present there is no such technical co-operation project in India, the official said.

Meanwhile, other major UN agencies based in Vienna too decided that they will not cut their programmes in India because of the nuclear tests.

The UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) said there would be no disruptions on its Indian programmes.

Speaking to reporters, UNIDO head Carlos Margarinos said even though it is an autonomous UN agency, it would follow the decisions taken by the UN secretariat in New York on the issue. - IANS