M A I N   N E W S

No external scrutiny of strategic plans
National interest sole guide: Pranab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee categorically told Parliament today that India's foreign policy is determined "solely by our national interests which is our sovereign right and will not allow external scrutiny of or interference with the strategic programme."

In a suo motu statement, Mr Mukherjee said the understanding between India and the United States on resumption of civilian nuclear energy cooperation is significant for the larger perspective of the country's energy security. Energy has become a critical constraint in expanding the economic growth and development.

Even more significant is the enactment of waivers from certain provisions of the US Atomic Energy Act which allows the US to cooperate with India in civilian nuclear energy "despite India not accepting full scope safeguards and despite maintaining a strategic programme."

Stating that the government has taken note of certain "extraneous and prescriptive" provisions in the legislation, the minister maintained that the country's foreign policy is determined by "our national interests" along with ensuring that "our strategic programme remains outside the purview of these discussions."

He informed the House that the US administration has categorically assured India that this legislation enables the United States to fulfill all the commitments it made in the July 18, 2005, and the March 2 Joint Statements. "We fully expect the July 18 statement and the March 2 separation plan to be reflected in the text of the 123 Agreement."

Emphasising that the Prime Minister had set forth the principles and concerns guiding India's approach to the nuclear understanding in Parliament on August 16 this year, Mr Mukherjee stressed that these principles and concerns continue to remain the basis for the engagement with the US and the international community on the tasks ahead.

The government's objective is that technology denial regimes that have targeted India for so many decades must be dismantled so that national development is unimpeded.

Mr Mukherjee noted "we are also committed to creating a climate where our scientists and technologists can participate in and contribute to international initiatives in various fields. We have taken a big step towards that goal and I am sure that the House would continue to support us in that endeavour."

Responding to critics who have attacked the government for compromising on the country’s strategic option and the future of its indigenous nuclear programme, the minister said that “protecting our strategic programmes and maintaining the integrity of our three-stage nuclear programme and indigenous research and development” was the guiding principle for the government in the negotiations with the US.

The US and India need to conclude a bilateral agreement that has to be again approved by both the chambers of the US Congress.

New Delhi has to negotiate India-specific safeguards and an additional protocol with the IAEA and the nuclear deal has to be approved with a consensus in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Mr Mukherjee added.



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