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India free to test, not bound by Hyde: Govt
Upheaval in Parliament, Left walks out
T.R.Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
Even as external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee categorically told the Lok Sabha in the midst of a walkout by the Left parties that India has the sovereign right to test and would do so if it is necessary in national interest, the BJP served notice of a privilege motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha for allegedly misleading Parliament on the India-US civilian nuclear deal.

The BJP-led Opposition and the Left parties forced the adjournment of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha by disrupting the proceedings following US state department’s spokesperson Sean Mc Cormack’s statement in Washington yesterday that the proposed nuclear deal with India will be terminated if New Delhi decides to undertake a nuclear test. This contradicts the Prime Minister’s suo motu statement to Parliament on Tuesday that the country’s sovereignty and national interests have not been compromised.

When the Lok Sabha assembled after two adjournments in the afternoon, Mukherjee sought to put the record straight affirming that “a decision to undertake a nuclear test would be India’s sovereign decision, resting solely with the government. There is nothing in the bilateral agreement that would tie the hands of a future government or legally constrain its options. The only restraint is our voluntary unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, declared by the previous government and being continued by the successor government.”

Mukherjee observed nowhere in the bilateral agreement on the cooperation for peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the USA "is testing mentioned. The bilateral cooperation agreement contains elaborate provisions in Articles 5 and 14 to ensure the continuous operation of India’s reactors. These include fuel supply assurances, the right to take corrective measures, and a strategic fuel reserve for the lifetime of India’s reactors in case of cessation of cooperation.”

Simultaneously BJP members were on their feet seeking permission to raise the issue of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrochi's release in Argentina yesterday.

TDP leader K.Yerran Naidu was most vociferous along with the UNPA members in demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister.

When the Lok Sabha assembled in the afternoon Opposition members continued to raise the din compelling the Speaker to adjourn the House for the day. The Privilege motion is under the consideration of the Speaker, sources said.

The situation was no different in Rajya Sabha where chaotic scenes were witnessed with MPs running towards the podium raising slogans against the Prime Minister necessitating the adjournment of the House for the day.

Meanwhile, in yet another attempt to clear the air about the Indo-US nuclear deal after the Prime Minister’s suo motu statement to Parliament earlier this week, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee made it clear that India was not bound by the Hyde Act of the US which contains certain “extraneous and prescriptive” provisions and retains its sovereign right to test.

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Back channels work overtime
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
UPA government’s crisis managers and the Left parties are working overtime to narrow their differences over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal so that a compromise formula can be presented before the CPM’s politburo which is meeting here tomorrow to reassess its stand on this issue.

Although hectic behind-the-scene parleys are underway to find a face saver, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi may be asked to step in to affect a rapprochement if the ongoing efforts fail to the end face-off.

As of now, several compromise formulae are being considered. One of the suggestions put forth by the Communists is that the government get a specific assurance from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) during its ongoing negotiations that India will have access to uninterrupted supply of fuel, irrespective of New Delhi’s bilateral relations with the United States.

It is felt this will satisfy the deal’s critics, who are apprehensive that the United States will stop all fuel supplies to India, as it had done in the past, if New Delhi went ahead with another nuclear test. A specific assurance from the NSG countries will imply that India will not be dependent solely on America for its nuclear fuel supply.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee has already clarified in his statement today that the Indo-US nuclear agreement has provisions to ensure continuous operation of India’s reactors but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mukherjee are learnt to have endorsed the Left’s suggestion that they will assure Parliament with regard to perpetuity in fuel supply from the NSG countries, which include France, Germany, Russia and China.

While the Left parties are firm that the UPA should not operationalise the nuke deal, they are in no mood to rock the boat and pull down the government at this juncture.

The external affairs minister has held several meetings with CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury to work out a face saver which will satisfy both sides. Realising that there is a division within the CPM on this issue, UPA’s crisis managers have been contacting the more moderate politburo members to persuade them about the merits of the nuke deal.

“What will happen will happen, but we are in touch with Left leaders,” Mukherjee told mediapersons, stating their four major concerns have been met.

“We are assured that it is not going to touch the strategic programme, not going to affect the three-stage indigenous research and development of peaceful nuclear energy programme and uninterrupted supply of fuel,” he added.

Regarding the Left’s demand that the deal should not be operationalised, Mukherjee indicated a way out, saying operationalisation cannot be undertaken immediately as it still has to go through several stages of negotiations.

While Mukherjee stepped in to allay the fears of Left parties, parliamentary affairs minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi struck a conciliatory note, saying the concerns raised by the Communists are genuine and the government is duty bound to respond to them, which will be done when the debate on the nuke deal is taken up in Parliament next week.

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N-deal: BJP gives privilege notice
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
The BJP today moved a privilege notice against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha for misleading the nation on the Indo-US nuclear deal. To add to the worries of the Congress-led UPA, the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) is also contemplating a similar notice.

Rajya Sabha member S.S. Ahluwalia (BJP) confirmed that his party colleagues, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, have moved a privilege notice against the Prime Minister for misleading Parliament on the deal.

Former minister of external affairs and Rajya Sabha member Yashwant Sinha told The Tribune: “It is up to the Rajya Sabha Chairman to decide whether or not to admit the privilege notice but we will continue to press for it.”

Rajya Sabha member Arun Shourie said: “We have given illustrations of how the PM’s statement is completely misleading.”

Addressing mediapersons following the adjournment of the Rajya Sabha till Friday, V. Maitreyan of the AIADMK said: “There is a strong case of breach of privilege against the Prime Minister.”

Hinting that MPs belonging to the UNPA constituents would continue to disrupt the proceedings of the House, Maitreyan said: “The House will not be peaceful till the Prime Minister comes out clear on the deal.”

He said the UNPA constituents might meet tomorrow to decide upon floor coordination. “We have not yet decided about bringing a privilege notice but we may move it,” he said.

Samajwadi Party member in the Rajya Sabha Amar Singh said: “The statement by a US State Department spokesperson on our Independence Day is a slap on the PM’s statement on the deal.”

The spokesperson, Sean McCormack, said the proposed 123 agreement had provisions in it that in the event of a nuclear test by India, all nuclear cooperation would be terminated.

Dismissing the Opposition campaign as motivated and one aimed at misleading the people, minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma said all charges were baseless. He said the Opposition should discharge its responsibilities in a responsible manner.

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