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PM addresses key concerns

The 123 Agreement with the US would not compromise India's foreign policy or its strategic nuclear weapons programme, PM assured Parliament on Monday, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2007 01:56 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

The recently-concluded 123 Agreement with the United States would not compromise India's independent conduct of foreign policy or its strategic nuclear weapons programme, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured Parliament on Monday, as he urged Parliamentarians to display the same confidence in India that outsiders do.

As members of Parliament tried their hardest to ensure that the Prime Minister could not be heard in the Lok Sabha, the PM detailed how closely the 123 Agreement on Cooperation for Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy with the United States adhered to his previous commitments to Parliament.

Tackling each concern raised in the Houses of Parliament when he last spoke on the issue almost a year ago on August 17, 2006, the Prime Minister said, "there is no question that we will ever compromise, in any manner, our independent foreign policy. We shall retain our strategic autonomy," he said.

"Nothing in the agreement would impinge on our strategic programme, our three-stage nuclear power programme or our ability to conduct advanced research and development," Singh said.

"Let me reiterate that a decision to undertake future nuclear test would be our sovereign decision, one that rests solely with the government. There is nothing in the agreement that would tie the hands of a future government," the Prime Minister said.

The agreement had been negotiated as an equal partner with the US on the principle of mutual benefit, Singh stressed, adding that the deal does not in any way affect India's right to undertake future nuclear tests, if deemed necessary.

The agreement confirmed that US cooperation with India is permanent and no provision states that it would be subject to an annual certification process. It acknowledges India as a state with "advanced nuclear technology" enjoying the same advantages and benefits as other states with advanced nuclear technology.

Singh said the agreement provides for full civil nuclear cooperation that will include nuclear reactors and the aspects of the associated nuclear fuel cycle, including technology transfer on industrial or commercial use. It would also include development of strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of Indian reactors.

"In the unlikely event of cessation of cooperation there is no derogation of our rights with regard to corrective measures. Our reprocessing rights are upfront and permanent in nature. Advanced R&D programmes and IPR protection are fully safeguarded," he said. India's right to reprocess US-origin spent fuel has been secured, he emphasized.

"We view our right to reprocess as a key element of a closed fuel cycle, which will enable us to make full use in our national facilities of the energy potential of the nuclear fuel used in our reactors. This important yardstick has been met by the permanent consent for India to reprocess," he said.

India will establish a new national reprocessing facility dedicated to reprocessing foreign nuclear material under IAEA safeguards. "We have not consented to any provision that mandates scrutiny of our nuclear weapons programme or any unsafeguarded nuclear facilities," Singh clarified.

"An important assurance given is the commitment of support for India's right to build up strategic reserves of nuclear fuel to meet the lifetime requirements of India's reactors." the PM said, addressing another key concern.