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I stand by commitments made to Parliament: Manmohan

Tuesday 19 December 2006

Special Correspondent

"Difficult negotiations lie ahead and scare mongering must stop"

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday reasserted that he stood by the commitments made to Parliament on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and promised that making the July statement a reality would not be at the expense of vital national interests.

Seeking to allay fears over the deal in the wake of the U.S. Congress legislation, Dr. Singh told the Lok Sabha that while "difficult negotiations lie ahead," the approach to the negotiations for the 123 agreement would be to protect the autonomy of the country’s strategic programme, maintain integrity of the three-stage nuclear power programme and safeguard indigenous research and development, including the fast breeder programme.

Intervening in a debate on the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear cooperation, the Prime Minister sought to know from the Opposition why there was "scare mongering" [on the deal] and emphasised that the country’s strategic programme would not be subject to external scrutiny or interference of any kind.

Advani criticised

Dr. Singh targeted Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani stating that through his speech he attempted to drive a wedge between the allies and supporters of the UPA with the hope that his Government could be toppled. "I assure you, you will have to wait a very long time and for that you would also have to seek the permission of Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee."

Unlike the secrecy over several rounds of discussions former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh had with the then U.S. official, Strobe Talbott, he had done nothing behind the back of Parliament.

He said Mr. Advani need not worry about India losing its nuclear swaraj and suggested that the Opposition judge the agreement when it comes. "It is premature to pass the type of verdict the Leader of Opposition did."

The legislation enables the U.S. administration to follow up with another commitment made by the U.S. in the July 18 joint statement in approaching its international partners, particularly the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to lift restrictions to allow full civil nuclear cooperation with India.

"We will seek to ensure that the NSG takes action to permit full civil nuclear cooperation with India in terms acceptable to us. India is interested in long term, stable and predictable cooperation in civil nuclear energy with the United States and other members of the international community," he said. Such a partnership with the U.S. can be facilitated if the legislation, its scope, content and implementation were to strengthen the hands of the U.S. administration to fulfil all its commitment agreed to in the July 18 statement and the March 2 separation plan.

"India will find it difficult to and cannot accept any such conditions beyond those already agreed in the understandings with the U.S.," he said. The U.S. had assured the Government that the legislation passed by Congress will enable it to fulfil all its commitments but clarifications were necessary because there were areas, which "cause us concern and [clarifications] will be sought from the U.S. on how this will be done."

At the same time, he said, while international negotiations were a complex process, "we recognise that the outcomes are not entirely predictable nor always under our control but compromises, if any, cannot violate basic principles."

See online : The Hindu

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