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'US had a mole in Rao's PMO'

Jaswant Singh's book claims American mole compromised India's nuclear secrets, reports Vinod Sharma.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2006 02:42 IST

Former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh's forthcoming book is bound to spark a controversy for his version on the Kandahar hijack and the claim that PV Narasimha Rao's PMO had an American mole who compromised India's nuclear secrets.

"Yes, there was a person in the PMO. I have evidence, a letter which gives graphic details," news agency PTI quoted Singh as having told India Today magazine when probed on his contention in the book.

He received the letter a decade ago, he claimed. "I did not want to sensationalize it (so) I did not use it then. Somebody in the PMO was giving information about India's nuclear programme to the US. It was during the previous Congress regime."

Singh explained his decision to go public with it now by levelling another serious charge, "If you read the full text of the letter, you will find echoes of the continuation of the US policy in the July 18 Indo-US agreement (on nuclear cooperation) and what the US expects of India." He alleged that the honour of the PMO was at stake, "We were snooped and are still being snooped."

The BJP leader did not name the mole but sources claimed the allusion was to a bureaucrat who has passed away.

A minister of state in Rao's PMO, Bhuvanesh Chaturvedi, rubbished Singh's charge. "It's baseless, imaginary. As former external affairs minister, he ought to have behaved more responsibly. He has tarnished the country's image to promote his book," he said.

The book, A Call To Honour: In Service of Emergent India, scheduled for release later this week, is also likely to stir a hot debate on some other issues: Kargil, Vajpayee's failed Agra Summit with Pervez Musharraf and the talks Singh had with the then US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott to end India's political isolation in the aftermath of Pokhran II.

A source claiming pre-release access to Singh's account of his talks with Talbott said it does not match with that of the US official's in his much-discussed work, Engaging India: Democracy, Diplomacy and the Bomb. A case in point: Singh's alleged promise to Talbott to deliver on India's accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that never materialised.

Eyebrows have also gone up in the diplomatic circles over reports that Singh had recapitulated in the book his conversations on Pokhran II with Vajpayee, Narasimha Rao and former President R Venkataraman.

"You don't disclose such information," a source said. He claimed Singh has quoted Rao to the effect that he wanted to carry out the nuclear tests but could not and that it was "now up to you to do it".

On the Agra Summit, Singh is understood to have revealed little. But he concedes that he should have kept the then joint secretary (external publicity) Nirupama Rao and I&B Minister Sushma Swaraj informed on the progress of the talks.

Swaraj's televised version of the discussions (without any mention of the exchange on the Kashmir issue) became a critical factor in the summit's failure.