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21st & 22nd March 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Iran deal could be rescued by the IAEA



With the tussle between the U.S. and Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is back on the stage to rescue the JCPOA.


GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbours, International Policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests), GS-II: Polity and Governance.

Mains Questions:

A new initiative by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) may help to find an alternative to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the changed circumstances. In this context, discuss the significance of the IAEA. (15 Marks)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)?
  2. Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
  3. IAEA and the NPT
  4. What is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Vienna Talks?
  5. Tussle between the U.S. and Iran
  6. Conclusion

What is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)?

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization in 1957, and even though it is established as an autonomous organization the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
  • The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
  • The IAEA serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear power worldwide.
  • The programs of the IAEA encourage the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, science and technology, provide international safeguards against misuse of nuclear technology and nuclear materials, and promote nuclear safety (including radiation protection) and nuclear security standards and their implementation.

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

  • The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament
  • The NPT is often seen to be based on a central bargain: “the NPT non-nuclear-weapon states agree never to acquire nuclear weapons and the NPT nuclear-weapon states in exchange agree to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”
  • The treaty defines nuclear-weapon states as those that have built and tested a nuclear explosive device before 1 January 1967; these are the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.
  • Four other states are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, and North Korea have openly tested and declared that they possess nuclear weapons, while Israel is deliberately ambiguous regarding its nuclear weapons status.
  • The Treaty has 189 States Parties, which is the largest number of any arms control agreement.
  • However, India, Israel and Pakistan have not signed the NPT.
  • North Korea announced its withdrawal in 2003, and further announced that it had conducted an underground nuclear explosion in 2006 and 2009.

IAEA and the NPT

  • The IAEA is neither the Secretariat of the NPT nor is it empowered to request States to adhere to it. It does, however, have formal responsibility in the context of implementing the treaty, as the IAEA’s mandate, expertise, and experience also equip it well to assist in the implementation.
  • The IAEA facilitates and provides a channel for endeavours aimed at the “further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.”
  • IAEA’s other major function is to administer international nuclear safeguards, in accordance with Article III of the Treaty, to verify fulfilment of the non-proliferation commitment assumed by non-nuclear-weapon States party to the Treaty.

What is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Vienna Talks?

  • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Vienna on 14 July 2015, between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) together with the European Union.
  • Under this framework Iran agreed tentatively to accept restrictions on its nuclear program, all of which would last for at least a decade and some longer, and to submit to an increased intensity of international inspections under a framework deal.
  • The final agreement is based upon (and buttresses) “the rules-based nonproliferation regime created by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and including especially the IAEA safeguards system”.

Tussle between the U.S. and Iran

  • The U.S. tried to pressurise Iran by proposing a resolution in the IAEA Board of Governors meeting criticising Iranian non-compliance with the JCPOA and its alleged IAEA safeguards violations amidst rumours that Iran might withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and proceed to develop nuclear weapons.
  • A technical ‘understanding’ was reached when the IAEA Director General allowed monitoring by the IAEA to continue in Iran and showed signs of a possible IAEA effort in case the JCPOA talks broke down.

Iran’s desire to follow on India’s footsteps

  • Iran looked at India with admiration for the way India had handled the NPT. – Iran prefers that they had not signed the NPT, developed a capability like India did, and then negotiated a deal.
  • However, now, the United Nations Security Council would not give them permission to leave the NPT even if they wished to do so.
  • If the stalemate continues on JCPOA, because of the U.S. pressure, public opinion may shift towards the Indian model of creating a deterrent and then seeking a special dispensation to avoid severe sanctions.


If the beginning of the new negotiations on the JCPOA drag on in the new circumstances in West Asia, particularly the interest of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to be part of any arrangement with Iran, which the U.S. supports, the IAEA may provide an alternative venue to open discussions on Iran’s obligations under the NPT, which do not have a time limit.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023