In a statement that is bound to raise the hackles of the Left parties, the Indian government reiterated on Thursday it was working towards an international waiver that would enable the resumption of nuclear commerce after a 30-year hiatus.
"We are working towards getting the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to alter its guidelines," Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha.
"There can be no nuclear commerce till the NSG amends its guidelines," he maintained.
The NSG waiver is one of the key elements in operationalising the India-US civilian nuclear deal. Before this, India has to work out a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and there are reports that the draft of this has been worked out.
The Left parties that support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government from outside have repeatedly threatened to pull the plug if it proceeds with the nuclear deal. There has also been talk of an early election, if push comes to shove. But External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated last week that the government would not be sacrificed for the sake of the nuclear deal.
Chavan's statement came in response to a question posed by Sushma Swaraj (Bharatiya Janata Party) as to whether Australia had threatened to stop the supply of uranium in case India tested a nuclear weapon.
"We have never got uranium from Australia," Chavan stated.
"In August 2007, Australia indicated it was willing to supply uranium to India. It was agreed that a meeting would be held at the official level. That meeting was not held," he added.
Swaraj, however, persisted with her question, in response to which Chavan said: "When there have never been any supplies of uranium, where is the question of stopping these?"
His remarks on the NSG were made in this context.
Manmohan Singh, who was present in the house, sat impassively through the exchanges.