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N-deal does not take away testing right: PM
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 28
The BJP kept up its ballistic attitude towards the Indo-US nuclear deal even though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the Lok Sabha that the deal did not take away India’s right to conduct fresh nuclear weapon tests.

Leader of the opposition L.K. Advani said his party would renegotiate the nuclear deal with the US if it came to power and remove those clauses from the deal which “encroach” on India’s sovereignty.

The Prime Minister, who made a brief intervention while Advani was speaking, sought to allay fears and apprehensions of the opposition as well as allies like the Left on the deal but it was visible that he was not very successful. “We are committed to a unilateral moratorium (on further nuclear tests). If more tests are required, there is nothing in this text (123 agreement) that debars us from doing so,” the Prime Minister said.

The short-duration discussion under Rule 193 which does not entail voting, turned ugly at the fag-end when the BJP-led opposition staged a walk out as external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee stood up to give the government’s reply. The opposition wanted a detailed reply from the Prime Minister himself.

Advani praised former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi several times in his speech and bracketed her with BJP stalwart and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying, “Indira Gandhi and Vajpayee won’t have agreed to this encroachment on Indian sovereignty.”

He opposed the nuclear deal on three grounds: (i) the strategic partnership with the US, though not objected to by the BJP in itself, was faulty as India was a junior partner; (ii) India was debarred from conducting fresh nuclear tests; and (iii) not just the IAEA inspectors but even American inspectors would be inspecting Indian nuclear facilities.

Advani also put three posers to the Prime Minister: 1. Do you see a broad national consensus on the nuclear deal (which he had once talked of)? 2. Are you determined to see that there would be no Pokhran-III? 3. What has been accomplished by the UPA-Left Committee on N deal?

CPM’s Rupchand Pal, who initiated the discussion, said since India was going to negotiate an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA, the UPA government must get an assurance from none other than the IAEA on uninterrupted fuel supplies.

He said the US was eyeing long-term strategic objectives through the nuclear deal and the government needed to avoid falling into this trap. He said the principal American interlocutor Nicholas Burns had himself gone on record saying that 90 per cent of Indian civilian nuclear reactors would be under IAEA safeguards, and that too in perpetuity, if the nuclear deal were to be operationalised.

Young member Jyotiraditya Scindia led a stout defence on behalf of the Congress and said the US had made India a single-nation exception, unprecedented in global diplomacy, in entering into the nuclear deal with a non-NPT signatory country.

He contrasted the Indo-US nuclear deal with a similar agreement between China and the US 22 years ago and said the Indian deal was better than China’s on at least three counts. One, China did not have any upfront reprocessing rights (unlike India). Two, there are no linkages in case of India in terms of fuel supplies while in case of China the linkages are many - like China’s relationship with redoubtable Pakistan and Beijing’s Tibet policy. Thirdly, China allowed even Australia to inspect its facilities in lieu of fuel supplies, while India is not wearing any such strait jacket.

Mukherjee, who concluded the debate with his reply, reiterated that there was nothing in the 123 agreement which made India or its foreign policy subservient to any other nation and the Indian strategic programme would remain unaffected.

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