SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
M A I N   N E W S

National interest to decide vote on Iran issue, says PM
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Highlights

  • Decision on Iran’s nuclear issue will be based on enlightened national interest.
  • India to maintain credible nuclear deterrence.
  • New pay commission will be constituted soon for Central Government employees.
  • India eminently suitable for permanent seat in the UNSC.
  • UPA government’s J&K policy clear and precise.
  • Engagement with Pakistan necessary for forging friendliest ties with neighbour.
  • Taking part in politics not a disqualification for Governors.
  • No other heads to roll in government following Supreme Court judgement on unconstitutional dissolution of the Bihar Assembly.
  • Consensus to be evolved on creation of Telengana state.
  • The country inching towards 8-10 per cent economic growth.
  • Freezing or defreezing of Quattrochhi’s accounts not at the behest of the government.
  • The government looking at how minority status of AMU can be restored.

New Delhi, February 1
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh categorically said today that India’s stand on the Iran nuclear issue at the Board of Governors meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna tomorrow will depend on the draft resolution and in keeping with “our enlightened national interest.” He declared there was “no question of bending” on the Indo-US nuclear cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

He maintained that there was no ambiguity on the Congress-led UPA government’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir which he categorised as “clear and precise.” Even as every endeavour was being made to talk to all shades of opinion in J and K that abjured violence for tackling the protracted problem, engaging Pakistan had become imperative to find “practical and pragmatic” solutions to all problems, including Kashmir.

“I have no mandate to transfer any Indian territory,” Dr Singh reaffirmed at his second national press conference here after assuming the high office 20 months back. He said his government was committed to creating an environment whereby the two neighbours had the “friendliest of relations.”

Disclosing that his government would announce soon the constitution of the Sixth Pay Commission for revising the salary of Central Government employees, the Prime Minister emphasised that despite the hard stance adopted by Left parties on certain issues “the time has not come to go to the people for a fresh mandate. Our government is not going to collapse and we will last the full five years. Some pressures in a coalition arrangement are not an unexpected development and perform a useful function. I am not a pessimistic to believe that the Left will go on its own.”

Dr Singh touched upon the UPA’s achievements, economic growth inching towards 8-10 per cent, launching revolutionary programmes for the poor sections, increasing generating capacity in the power sector, providing remunerative prices to the farmers and ensuring greater credit facilities, all political parties having to take a decision collectively on keeping out those from elections with a criminal background, reducing fiscal deficit and the need to tackle Naxalism by modernising the police forces.

He rejected suggestions that the UPA government was high discriminatory in dealing with states depending on who was at the helm of affairs. “It is the duty of the Centre to help all states on the basis of objective criteria. It is not factually correct that the Centre’s attitude in dealing with certain states is discriminatory. The Centre does not believe in discrimination.”

Making it clear that the country will maintain a credible minimum nuclear deterrent and not yield to any pressures, Dr Singh said: “We have clear objectives. We want to promote trade in nuclear materials so that nuclear security gets an added cutting edge.”

Referring to the ongoing discussions with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, he said the country would be fully involved through Parliament on the matter. “There will be complete transparency...I will make the first opportunity to make a statement in Parliament on India’s negotiations with the United States.”

About the Iran nuclear issue, he said the joint statement issued by the P-5 and Germany was significant and efforts were on in Vienna to resolve the issue through dialogue. “I still believe that this matter should be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue.” Iran, he noted was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and it must fulfil its international obligations.

Dr Singh said India was “eminently qualified and had a legitimate claim” for a permanent seat in an expanded United Nations Security Council (UNSC) considering its achievements, performance and potential as well as growing worldwide recognition. India was a fastest growing economies and reaching out to various countries for establishing linkages.

On the upcoming visit of U S President George Bush, the Prime Minister said it would help review various bilateral initiatives, including the civilian nuclear agreement and cooperation in science and technology, agriculture as well as the business communities of the two countries.

On the domestic front, Dr Singh did not hedge in accepting responsibility for all decisions taken by the government. “I am not disowning responsibility but at the end of the day the government did the right thing.” At the same time the government launched some revolutionary programmes for the poorer sections to tackle extreme poverty which had never happened before. “Our record is quite credible.”

Replying to question on creation of a separate state of Vidarbha and Telengana, he said there was commitment in the National Common Minimum Programme about carving out Telengana for which a broad consensus would have to be evolved. Efforts were on to create such a consensus.

On the adverse Supreme Court judgement on the action taken by former Governor Buta Singh, Dr Singh, without going into names, felt that participation in politics should not be a disqualification for a person to become Governor. In this context, he said the Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State relations had recommended that active politicians should not be appointed as Governors. However, the Inter-State Council had not accepted this recommendation. “I don’t think that being active in politics is a disqualification for a person to become a Governor.”

The Prime Minister asserted that the decision to dissolve the Bihar Assembly was “the right thing to do on the basis of material available with the Centre.” He was quick to point out that the Supreme Court had given a split verdict on the issue. Whatever action the government had to take in the wake of the Supreme Court judgement had been taken thereby ruling out the resignation of either the Union Home Minister or anybody else in the government.

On constituting a new pay commission for government employees, Dr Singh acknowledged that it was time for that as the last one was set up in 1994. At the same time, administrative reforms were moving ahead speedily.

The Right to Information Act was revolutionary as it would lead to greater accountability and deal with corruption. He laid emphasis on the government’s need to strengthen the mechanism to improve the fiscal situation. On the finances of the states, he said: “If you look at the cash position some states are flush with cash. Their financial position is better than ever before.” With higher growth in the economy, Dr Singh underlined the need to increase the savings rate in the next few years from the present 29 per cent. A hike in the savings rate by 4-5 per cent on account of employment of younger generation would ad upto 1 per cent to the overall growth in the GDP.

Talking about undertaking power reforms, the Prime Minister said he would be convening a meeting with the state Chief Ministers in two weeks time. “We have to increase the generation capacity by 150,000 MW in the next seven years. We have to improve distribution and transmission also. That will require heavy investment.” At the same time, he favoured “proper pricing” of power by all public utilities keeping in mind the paying capacity of the people.
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