Rejecting the Indo-US civil nuclear deal in its current form on the ground that it amounted to an "assault on the nuclear sovereignty and foreign policy options" of India, the BJP on Saturday demanded that a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) be set up to examine it and the deal be finalised only after getting Parliament’s approval.
Coming out with what it termed as its "preliminary reaction" a day after the 123 Agreement was made public, the party asked the government to suspend all further action on the nuke deal till the issue appeared before Parliament.
Articulating BJP’s position on the issue, party leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie also demanded appropriate amendments in the Constitution and the law to ensure that in future all international agreements that had a bearing on the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security shall be ratified by Parliament.
"Right since July 2005 (when a joint statement was issued after PM Manmohan Singh’s meeting with US President George Bush in Washington), the government has been spreading the canard that the deal would recognise India as a de-facto nuclear power. Nothing could be further from the truth," asserted Sinha who was the External Affairs Minister in the Vajpayee-led NDA government.
The inspections that India would be subject to and the conditions imposed on it under the agreement would be equivalent to those applicable to non-nuclear weapons nations, both he and Shourie stated. For these reasons, the BJP had consistently opposed the deal and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed his reservations on the issue even in 2005 with regard to its impact on India’s strategic nuclear programme, they added.
Expressing BJP’s objections to the provisions of the agreement, they said since each party was required to implement the agreement in accordance with its national laws and regulations, there was no doubt that India would be governed by the provisions of the Hyde Act of 2006 and the US Atomic Energy Act, 1954.
Sinha found US commitment on fuel supplies "vague and futuristic". Besides, as the US would, under the provisions of the deal, retain the right of end-use verification of all its supplies, it would ensure that American inspectors would roam around all Indian nuclear installations, he felt.
Shourie was highly critical of the UPA government for agreeing to set up a new national fuel reprocessing facility under IAEA safeguards pointing out that none of the five big nuclear powers had created such a facility.
Another objectionable provision of the agreement, according to the BJP, was that with regard to fuel supplies, reprocessing rights and the right to recall the equipments supplied, the US had maintained its position as in the Hyde Act while India had accepted "legally enforceable commitments" in perpetuity.
Thus, even if the agreement was terminated, the safeguards in perpetuity would continue so long as any material or equipment or any of the by products remained on the Indian soil, the leaders lamented.
They also ridiculed the Indian government for trying to make much out of the fact that nuclear testing was not mentioned in the 123 Agreement. "When (US) national laws apply, which includes the NPT, provisions of Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and Hyde Act, 2006 which specifically forbid nuclear tests, where is the question of India having the freedom to test once we enter into this agreement?" Sinha asked.
He also claimed that under the separation plan for civil and military nuclear installations, which would be prepared under US surveillance, two thirds of Indian reactors will be put in the civlian category under safeguards. In course of time, 90 per cent of the Indian reactors would be in the civilian category, Sinha said while opining that all these things, along with the intrusive provisions of the Hyde Act, were bound to have a "stultifying effect" on India’s strategic nuclear programme.