Even as it insisted that its strategic programme has not been capped because of the civil nuclear deal with the US, India on Friday conceded that if it violates the unilateral moratorium on atomic tests, it will have to "pay the price" for it.
Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said that irrespective of the civil nuclear deal with the US, India would face the situation of 1998 when it conducted nuclear tests.
"It has been asked whether our strategic options are not being restricted as a result of the July 18 (2005) commitment to continue our voluntary moratorium. Let me make it quite clear that this is not a new commitment, even in bilateral understanding," he said delivering a lecture on 'India-US Joint Statement of July 18,2005: A year later'.
He said that in 1998, India had in the UN General Assembly expressed willingness "not only to continue the moratorium but also to move towards its de jure formalisation".
"We did not go as far..." Saran said but added that "if the moratorium is broken, we will have to pay the price like that in 1998."
The Foreign Secretary said that in 1998, India had made a "conscious decision" to go for the nuclear tests. "If in the future, the government of the day takes a decision (to explode nuclear device)..." he said but did not elaborate.
Noting that the Separation Plan of India's nuclear reactors presented to the US under the deal has been "depicted by some analysts as eroding the vigour of our strategic deterrent, he said "I can only state that those who are in the position to make an informed judgement on the needs of our credible minimum deterrent have concluded otherwise."
Emphasising that the development of July 18, 2005 marked India's "determination to put behind us an era of defensive diplomacy", Saran said, "There can be no argument that better relations with the US are in our national interest".
Referring to the bills providing for change of US law to allow nuclear trade with India, he said these bills are likely to be voted upon by the US House of Representatives and the Senate in the coming days and "if all goes well, we may see the text of the final legislation fairly soon".
He made it clear that India cannot undertake any obligations going beyond the July 18 Joint Statement and the Separation Plan.
"Obviously, the legislation will be the product of an American political process and could well include some references that we may find unpalatable," Saran said, adding however that "while making our views quite clear, we must focus on what is essential."
He underlined that India's obligations will "only be those that we undertake in the bilateral 123 cooperation agreement and the safeguards agreement with the IAEA."
India needs to "scrutinise carefully the finding provision that will find their way into the 123 agreement and safeguards arrangement," Saran said and emphasised "the bottom line .. Is that these provisions should measure up to the yardsticks of July 18 (2005) and March 2."
The Foreign Secretary, who played a key role in negotiating the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, said the important objective of the agreement was dismantling of the technology denial regimes led by Washington but imposed by other advanced countries as well.
"In dismantling these denial regimes and enabling our business and industry to access dual use technologies, the nuclear deal will really be the key which will open this lock," he said.
He said one of the highlights of the deal was that India can build reserves of nuclear fuel that will last the full life of each atomic reactor.
Saran also sought to dispel concerns over the possibility of nuclear technology and material received for civilian reactors being transferred to strategic programme or other countries, saying India has put in place adequate safeguard mechanisms including legal provision like legislation prohibiting proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).