India is expected to back Argentina for the post of Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The post has been lying vacant since the last incumbent, Yukiya Amano, passed away on July 18.
Rafael Grossi, the Permanent Representative of Argentina at IAEA since 2013 and a former Chairman of the Nuclear Suppliers Group between 2014 and 2016, is the hot favourite for the post, as he is believed to have secured the backing of the US, Russia and China. US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has described Grossi as a “perfect candidate”.
Grossi was also the president of the Diplomatic Conference of the Convention on Nuclear Security, which had adopted the Vienna Declaration in February 2015.
The others who entered their nominations by the close date of September 5 are the current acting DG, Cornel Feruta of Romania, Marta Ziakova of Slovakia and Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso, who is currently the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Vienna.
Sources in the know have told BusinessLine that India would support Grossi, but it is not official yet. Asked about this, Argentina’s Ambassador in India, Daniel Chuburu, confirmed to BusinessLine that his country has sought India’s backing.
“We have requested India’s support, but we still don’t have any feedback. Grossi is a very good candidate and we hope he is going to win the elections,” Chuburu said.
India cannot put up its candidate, as the unwritten rule at IAEA is that no country that is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treat (NPT) can become the DG, or, for that matter, even the Deputy DG.
The 35-member Board of Governors will hold elections soon, and the new Director-General of the agency — which has a budget of €592 million and a staff strength of 2,500 — will be named in October.
The DG elections are happening at a time when Japan, which is said to back Feruta, has kicked up a controversy.
Much to the chagrin of neighbouring Korea, Japan wants to dump 1.15 million tonnes of radio-active contaminated Fukushima reactor waters into the Pacific ocean. The move is part of Japan bidding adieu to nuclear plants. The new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, wants to shut down all of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants, a position that is at variance with that of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. Even historically, there is no love lost between Japan and Korea, but things are now worse, with a trade war going on between them.
Observers note that the European vote is likely to get split between Ziakova — favoured because she might be the first female DG — and Feruta — an insider who has run the agency through the entire period of Amano’s sickness. Africans are expected to vote for the articulate Zerbo, a nuclear scientist, but sources say that India is unlikely to back him because he heads CTBTO, an organisation that is meant to bring the test ban treaty — which India hates — to fruition.
Sources say that India has not been particularly happy with IAEA under Amano. The country feels that its growing nuclear prowess has not been adequately acknowledged by the agency.