India signed an inspection agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday, fulfilling a main precondition before nuclear exporting countries can start to supply India's growing atomic power sector, dpa reported.
India's ambassador Saurabh Kumar signed the so-called safeguards agreement at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters, the IAEA confirmed. In a next step, the pact has to be ratified by the Indian government.
Under the 2006 civilian nuclear cooperation deal with the United States, the South Asian atomic weapons state agreed to separate its military and civilian nuclear facilities.
It also pledged to place 14 power reactors under IAEA monitoring by 2014, up from the six currently safeguarded by agency inspectors.
Last September, the Nuclear Suppliers Group of nuclear exporting countries decided to end its supply ban for India, based on the agreement with the US and on condition that IAEA inspections are in place.
Currently nuclear power supplies only about 3 per cent of India's electricity, but the government plans to increase this to 25 per cent by 2050 to help meet the country's burgeoning energy needs.
India has already concluded nuclear cooperation agreements with the US, France, Russia and Kazakhstan and is planning to sign one with Canada for resumption of nuclear commerce.
After Monday's signing, the next immediate step would be to work on the process of ratification by the Indian government, Anil Kakodkar, chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission was quoted as saying by the Indian PTI news agency.
The Department of Atomic Energy would also file a declaration to the IAEA on which facilities would be placed under safeguards and in what time frame, Kakodkar said.
A diplomat in Vienna, who did not want to be named, said India seemed to be "in no hurry" to ratify the treaty, as some of the 14 reactors had not been built yet.