M A I N   N E W S

Indo-US nuke deal reciprocal
PM says separation of civilian, military facilities possible
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 3
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made a slew of wide-ranging, far-reaching assurances to the Lok Sabha about fears and suspicions raised about his recent visit to the United States, the most important of them on the Indo-US nuclear agreement about which he said all commitments were “reciprocal” and that segregation of civilian and military nuclear facilities was possible.

A significant comment that Dr Manmohan Singh mentioned briefly related to Indian’s campaign for the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) when he indicated that his government still had not given up hope despite Washington’s refusal to back India’s candidature. He said, without elaborating, when some concrete action takes place, the Indian case will be taken up. “I have reasons to believe that when time comes, India’s role can no longer be ignored.”

The Prime Minister, who spoke extempore for nearly an hour while replying to a four-and-a-half-hour discussion under Rule 193 on his last week’s suo motu statement on his US visit, said even if the US Congress were not to approve the nuclear agreement, “We have the US Government’s commitment”. By talking about the Bush administration’s commitment, he was implying that if the US Congress were to block the agreement, President George W. Bush would use his discretionary presidential waiver.

Dr Manmohan Singh displayed his oratory skills when he gave point-by-point response to queries raised during the discussion started by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who ironically spoke from a prepared text while being seated.

The Prime Minister made one important disclosure about the back-room diplomacy which went on during his US visit. He said Mr Vajpayee had asked whether he consulted nuclear scientists before signing the nuclear deal with the US and whether separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities was possible. The Prime Minister said this matter had engaged his personal attention even before he started for the US.

He remarked: “I hope that I am not divulging some secret as I take this august House into confidence that I had made it clear to everybody that I will not sign any document until the Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, who accompanied me to the US, did not approve it.” As a result, negotiations were held up and delayed for 12 to 15 hours, he added.

Dr Manmohan Singh said if all that is committed in the nuclear agreement is implemented, 30,000 to 40,000 MW of nuclear power could be added within the next 15 to 20 years.

While referring to the contentious issue of separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities, the Prime Minister said: “Let me assure you this separation is possible. It is not imposed. It is to be decided voluntarily and this determination is to be done solely by us.”

The Prime Minister set at rest fears about the independence of India nuclear policy when he said the exercise of separation of civilian and nuclear facilities will be done by in a phased manner. “It can’t be done in one go. It will be so phased that our strategic programme is fully safeguarded.”

In response to the question raised by Mr Vajpayee on the fate of India vis a vis the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), Dr Manmohan Singh said: “We have not taken any more commitments than by the previous government.” He made it clear again and again that during negotiations, he had had never surrendered the country’ sovereignty and that the country’s research programme in nuclear and strategic fields would not be affected in any manner.

While referring to the Indo-US Joint Statement, released in Washington at the conclusion of his visit, the Prime Minister said: “There is nothing in this Joint Statement which suggests that we have given up our nuclear programme.”

The Prime Minister came up with a categoric assurance on another important point — the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline — and said the government was committed to making the pipeline a reality. “This is a matter between Iran, Pakistan and India. The US has nothing to do with it. Period.”

He summed up his speech with one more categoric assurance amidst thumping of the desks from the Treasury Benches, though it was far less subdued than the applause he received during his address to the Joint Session of the US Congress and Senate in Washington. The Prime Minister said: “I was not there to sell India. I was there to pursue the policies which have been approved by our own Parliament.”

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