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AICC Meet
Propaganda on N-deal false: Manmohan
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 17
Under fire from the opposition and the Left parties on the Indo-US nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi today assured the party rank and file that the deal would not hurt India’s strategic programme or compromise its independent foreign policy.

The two leaders held out these assurances during the course of their speeches at the day-long All-India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting at the Talkatora Stadium this morning.

Dr Singh and Sonia’s firm backing for the deal was also meant to dispel the misgivings of its own cadres and to enable them to articulate the party’s position to the electorate.

Their comments came a day after the ruling combine’s key supporters, the Left parties, allowed the UPA government to negotiate India-specific safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Having got the unequivocal support of the party, which was reflected at length in the omnibus resolution adopted by the AICC delegates, the Prime Minister deviated from his written speech to tell the gathering that the propaganda unleashed against the deal was absolutely baseless.

“The propaganda that the nuclear deal will hurt our strategic programme is totally wrong,” Manmohan Singh said in English while the speech he was reading was in Hindi.

“The agreement concerns only with the civilian side of our nuclear programme. It has no bearing on our strategic programme, which will remain intact,” the Prime Minister told the AICC delegates, many of whom have privately expressed their misgivings about the deal.

“The propaganda that it will affect our sense of judgement and independence of our foreign policy is equally wrong,” he said. “I have repeatedly said in parliament that India is too big a country, we have the heritage of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Nobody can bend India,” he told the gathering, which reciprocated with a thunderous applause.

The Prime Minister’s written speech, however, contained only a brief reference to the nuclear deal. “The nuclear agreement is an effort to open closed doors for us so that we can obtain nuclear fuel and technology from countries such as the US, Russia and France and remove the shortage of electricity in the country. You need to understand this reality and explain to our people,” he said.

Opening the session with a 45-minute speech, Sonia made a special reference to the nuclear deal in the light of the Left’s strong opposition to it and the widespread debate it has generated.

Endorsing the Prime Minister’s assurance that the nuclear deal will not have any impact on the country’s strategic nuclear programme, she said the deal would enable India to acquire fuel and technology from the international community and meet its energy needs. She was also quick to underline that India’s foreign policy remained independent and autonomous.

With the UPA and Left parties having arrived at a temporary compromise just yesterday, Sonia was careful not to attack the nuclear deal’s critics. Referring to the differences over the deal, the Congress president merely said: “I understand that some of our coalition partners have various reservations against some of the provisions in the nuclear agreement. We are trying to resolve the differences through discussions.”

Reaffirming her commitment to observing the coalition dharma, she said the Congress would make all efforts to take along its allies.

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