M A I N   N E W S

PM consults 2 top scientists
To reply to debate on N-deal today
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was today updated by two top scientists on the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement — a politically explosive issue on which the Rajya Sabha is scheduled to have a short duration discussion tomorrow, to be followed by the Prime Minister’s reply.

National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan was also present during the meeting wherein Dr R. Chidambaram, Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister, and Dr Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, briefed the Prime Minister on broad contours of the nuclear deal.

Eight former nuclear scientists had written to the Prime Minister two days ago, expressing their reservations against the nuclear deal and saying that the US Congress had shifted the goalposts. The government’s stand on the subject is that it is dealing with the Bush Administration, not with the US Congress.

Mr Narayanan told this correspondent that the meeting, which lasted nearly an hour, was a “routine” one. He reminded that the Prime Minister also held additional portfolio of Atomic Energy. The NSA replied in the negative when asked whether Dr Manmohan Singh had today met the eight retired nuclear scientists who had written to the Prime Minister on August 14 on the nuclear deal.

Dr Sanjay Baru, Prime Minister’s Media Adviser, came out with a stronger reaction when asked by this correspondent whether Dr Manmohan Singh would be meeting the eight former scientists.

“Meeting these former scientists? What for? If the Prime Minister goes on meeting retired people, when will he work? This line of argument that there must be a binding resolution in Parliament on the nuclear deal after the Prime Minister’s categoric statements in Parliament, is totally unacceptable,” Dr Baru remarked.

The eight retired scientists had said: “We find that the Indo-US deal, in the form approved by the US House of Representatives, infringes on our independence for carrying out indigenous research and development (R&D) in nuclear science & technology. Our R&D should not be hampered by external supervision or control, or by the need to satisfy any international body.”

They demanded that it was important for Parliament to work out, and insist on the ground rules for the nuclear deal, at this stage itself. “The lawmakers in the US Congress have modified, both in letter and spirit, the implementation of such an agreement. Therefore, it was essential for the Parliamentarians to look into some of the issues given in the statement carefully,” the former scientists said in their letter.

The Prime Minister, in his reply to the short duration discussion on the issue in the Upper House tomorrow, is expected to reiterate what he has already assured both Houses of Parliament — the nuclear deal will not inhibit India’s future ability to develop and pursue nuclear technologies, and there will be no adverse implication on India’s strategic programme.

The letter was signed by three former chairmen of the Atomic Energy Commissions, Dr H.N. Sethna, Dr M.R. Srinivasan, and Dr P.K. Iyengar; and a former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Dr A. Gopalakrishnan.

Dr S.L. Kati, former Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation, Dr A.N. Prasad, former Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Dr Y.S.R. Prasad, former Chairman and Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation, and Dr Placid Rodriguez, former Director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, were the other signatories.





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