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No secret agreement with U.S.: Manmohan

Thursday 4 August 2005

Not ganging up with U.S. against China U.N. seat: When the time comes, I have reason to believe that we will not be ignored Negotiations were held up for 14 hours because I wanted final draft approved by AEC Chairman

Special Correspondent

Nuclear arms programme not compromised

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday that the Indo-U.S. joint statement was not a departure from the basic tenets of the country’s foreign policy. He denied there was any secret accord with the U.S. and said all that had been agreed to was included in the joint statement.

The Government had not made any commitment on the ongoing negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty other than what had already been made by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime. Nor had India’s autonomy in managing the country’s nuclear weapons programme been compromised.

Responding to a discussion on his recent visit to Washington, the Prime Minister said while the U.S. had a different view on supporting India’s claim for a seat in the United Nations Security Council, "when the time comes, I have reason to believe that we will not be ignored."

Addressing himself primarily to the observations made by the NDA and Left members, Dr. Singh in particular sought to allay Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Rupchand Pal’s fear that the U.S. had agreed to accommodate India’s interests to contain China. "I want to dispel the "illusion" of any military alliance. We are not ganging up with the U.S. against China."

Developmental options

Of the view that a strategic engagement with the U.S. was important in the "world we live in," Dr. Singh maintained that his objective was to widen India’s developmental options. "As Minister for Atomic Energy, I know that our atomic energy programme has lagged behind.’’ Arguing that India was too dependent on hydrocarbon imports, his endeavour was to persuade the U.S. to lift the restrictions that hampered India’s quest for faster access to nuclear energy.

On the oft-repeated apprehension whether separation of the civilian and military components of India’s nuclear programme was feasible, Dr. Singh answered in the affirmative. "I had the advice of the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)." Also, he revealed that negotiations had been held up for close to 14 hours because of his insistence that the final draft would have to have the approval of the AEC Chairman. Further, separation would not be imposed but would be "decided voluntarily and solely on our own judgment." It will be a phased identification, and it "will be so phased that our strategic programme is safeguarded’’.

As for the general refrain on the U.S. not recognising India as a nuclear weapons state, Dr. Singh conceded the point but argued: "This is because in international parlance such states are those identified in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We are not party to the NPT. That treaty cannot be negotiated overnight. What we have done is get all the benefits of being a nuclear weapons state without being a de jure nuclear weapons state.’’

A member raised Dr. Singh’s observation in an interview that the India-Iran gas pipeline was fraught with risks. The Prime Minister asserted that the project was a "matter between India, Iran and Pakistan." The Government, he said, was committed to making it a reality but was conscious of the problems involved. Time and again assuring the House that he had not compromised with India’s security concerns, Dr. Singh signed off his 40-minute response with an assertion that "I did not act as a representative of a supplicant State" during the visit which he admitted was one of the most challenging tasks he undertook after the 1991 Budget.

See online : The Hindu

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