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?Programme will not suffer?

?We cannot agree to anything that is not consistent with our vital national interests,? says the PM, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2006 23:58 IST

During an intervention in the short duration debate on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal in Lok Sabha on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the House again that the deal will not compromise India's strategic programme.

“Our strategic programme will not be subject to external scrutiny or interference of any kind,” he said, rebutting fears expressed by Leader of Opposition LK Advani, who initiated the debate saying that India stood to lose its “nuclear swaraj” with the Hyde legislation. (In the US, the act passed by Congress on December 8-9, endorsing the deal, is called the Henry J Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006.)

“Nothing will be done that will compromise, dilute or cast a shadow on India's full autonomy in the management of its security and national interests,” Singh said. “No legislation of a foreign country can take away from us our sovereign right to conduct foreign relations, be it with Iran or with other countries, solely in accordance with our national interests,” he added.

“We cannot agree to anything that is not consistent with our vital national interests,” the Prime Minister went on, “including protecting the autonomy of our strategic programme, maintaining the integrity of the three-stage nuclear power programme and safeguarding indigenous research and development.”

However, Singh’s 20-minute intervention did not appear to satisfy critics. Sitaram Yechury of the CPI-M said he did not question Singh or the government's commitment to assurances given to Parliament, but said the legislation bound the US administration’s capacity to negotiate the 123 Agreement. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, while concluding the debate, continued to try and allay fears about India’s nuclear programme.

Email Nilova Roy Chaudhury: nilova @hindustantimes.com