An Additional Protocol for safeguards inspections in India has been approved by the IAEA board. After ratification, the deal will give more power to international inspectors.
Approval came as a concensus vote during the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board deliberations, currently ongoing in Vienna. The Additional Protocol will build on top of an existing safeguards deal agreed by the IAEA and India, under which the country split its nuclear sites into two distinct sectors: civilian and military.
Safeguards checks carried out by the IAEA will ensure that no material or technology traded with India for peaceful purposes will ever be misused in the military sector. The Additional Protocol grants the IAEA additional powers of movement and the right to conduct short-notice checks anywhere in the country to verify that this is so.
The exact terms of this latest agreement will remain unpublished until ratified by the Indian parliament, but it is expected to be a special facility-specific arrangement like India's safeguards deal.
India is in a unique position partly because it has consistently refused the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the grounds that nuclear weapons are essential to its regional security. After shunning the treaty in 1968, India then went on to develop an indigenous nuclear power industry. Other countries' safeguards measures were subsequently built on top of NPT commitments and so later, when the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) made comprehensive safeguards a pre-requisite for international nuclear trade, India was left isolated.
An international process to end the isolation was led by the USA from mid 2005. It required a special safeguards arrangment for India, then an exception under NSG rules, then a round of bilateral nuclear cooperation deals. This latest Additional Protocol move brings the entire process closer to its conclusion, although ratification of the safeguards and Additional Protocol texts is still required from India.