There is no deadline to conclude the civil nuclear deal with the United States and domestic political arithmetic in pursuing the initiative could not be wished away, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday night.
Singh stated candidly that he could not give a “definitive answer” to a question about what the government would do at the International Atomic Energy Agency if domestic opposition to the civil nuclear initiative persisted.
<b1>The PM, however, felt that an “early decision” would have to be taken on the next steps in the deal even as India talks to the IAEA to conclude a safeguards agreement.
Asked if he could persuade the Left to give up their opposition to the deal, Singh said with a smile that it was “an essay in mutual comprehension and mutual persuasion”.
“The effort, process (to convince the Left) is on. I have not lost hope,” he told reporters on his flight back to New Delhi from Beijing.
The PM revealed he had specifically requested Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to support a future safeguards agreement at the IAEA as well as India’s case at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
“The answer I got is that they support cooperation in civil nuclear energy consistent with their non-proliferation obligations,” Singh said.
The PM admitted he had not got an “assurance” from the Chinese leadership that they would back India’s case at the IAEA and NSG, but believed that China would not be an obstacle in these agencies given the improving ties between the two countries.
Would this positive Chinese attitude make the Left parties change their attitude to the deal? “That you should ask our Left friends,” he responded.
The PM told reporters that President Hu had been shocked by the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and was concerned by the situation in Pakistan.
He said President Hu endorsed India’s view that a strong, stable and moderate Pakistan was in everyone’s interest and that there were problems in Pakistan.
India and China, Hu told Singh on Tuesday, should consult each other more frequently on the Pakistan issue. Similarly, the two leaders, who discussed Myanmar and Iran as well, agreed to take these consultations further.
On the border dispute with China, Singh said it was a “complex and complicated” question and would take time to resolve. Both President Hu and Premier Wen assured him that China had the political will to resolve the boundary issue.
“I cannot say at this stage whether this (the border dispute) could be resolved in months,” he stated, adding that the Special Representatives dealing with the issue had set up a working group which was looking at “two alternative drafts” which would ultimately emerge as an agreed border framework. “That process is on.”
Asked why India-China relations were climbing to a new level, the prime minister stated, “The world respects strength, the world does not respect the weak.”
Singh, visibly pleased with the results of his Beijing visit, said he had been impressed by the wisdom, depth and knowledge of the Chinese leadership on a range of issues. China, he stated, had become the “world's manufacturing workshop”.
Earlier in the day, in Beijing, Singh blamed the developed world for causing environmental damage. “The rights of our people to a fair chance to improve their lot cannot be abandoned because of environmental damage caused by others who followed a path that has squandered the world’s resources,” he said at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Taking a tough stand, Singh made it clear that burden sharing had to be fair and must take into account the historical emissions when it came to addressing the issue of climate change. “The recently concluded Bali conference provides a framework for future cooperation between India and China on this basis. India and China should continue to work together to strengthen international cooperation on this basis.”