Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said he was confident of winning the trust vote in Parliament a week away and underlined that the India-US nuclear deal will end "the era of nuclear apartheid" against the country without compromising its strategic programme or foreign policy.
Manmohan Singh's remarks, his first detailed one after the Left withdrew its four years of support to the ruling coalition, came amid hectic efforts by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to woo smaller parties even as the Congress too expressed confidence that the government would survive the opposition bid to dislodge it.
"People of India understand the significance of the nuclear deal. The nuclear deal will in no way impinge on India's strategic programme," Manmohan Singh told senior editors from the electronic media at a breakfast meeting at his 7 Race Course residence.
It would not compromise India's independent foreign policy, he said, while underlining that the nuclear deal would end "the era of nuclear apartheid against India".
The prime minister also expressed confidence that people valued the initiatives taken by the UPA government and would endorse them.
Underlining the global character of the nuclear deal, he said that the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would enable the country to cooperate in civil nuclear energy with all the 45 member countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) including the US, Russia, France and China.
He emphasised that India's strategic programme was "entirely outside the purview" of the IAEA safeguards agreement and would, therefore, not hit the country's strategic deterrence.
He said that the government was planning to brief key members of IAEA in Vienna this week before the agency's board of governors meets on Aug 1.
After the board approves the agreement, the NSG will have to decide on amending its guidelines to allow global nuclear commerce with New Delhi.
The last step in completing the nuclear deal entails an endorsement of the enabling 123 Agreement by the US Congress, which is expected to take place by September if the preceding two steps are completed in time.
The prime minister also allayed anxieties about the nuclear deal sucking India into a strategic alliance with the US, saying New Delhi would "never allow any extraneous interference in the conduct of our independent foreign policy".
He reiterated his government's commitment to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and opposition to reports indicating an alleged US-backed Israeli plan to attack Tehran.
With double-digit inflation still soaring, the prime minister said his government was taking concrete steps "to insulate the poor" from rising prices of essential commodities and stressed that the biggest challenge now was to curb inflation and keep the growth momentum going.
It was not a typical inflation as it was spurred by rising prices of global crude oil, he said as part of a freewheeling conversation with select editors lasting nearly an hour.
Meanwhile, the Congress party claimed that it had enough MPs to gain a "comfortable majority" in the Lok Sabha.
"It is a win-win situation. Smaller parties are crucial to us," Congress general secretary M. Veerappa Moily said.
He denied charges of "money power" and "horse-trading" in gathering their support.
"It (the charges are) demeaning parliament. Every MP is a honourable member of the house. Any reflection on the character of an MP is condemnable," he said.
"Smaller parties have their concerns and we have to address them. Nothing wrong in it," Moily said, when asked about the "price" the Congress was paying to gain the support of smaller parties and MPs.