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BJP not fully convinced about pact

Top BJP leaders feel the Hyde Act enacted by the United States Congress may become subservient to the 123 agreement, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Jul 27, 2007 02:33 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times

Can the Hyde Act enacted by the United States Congress become subservient to the 123 agreement between the Indian and US governments?

Top BJP leaders, led by AB Vajpayee, had this query for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when they met him on Thursday to discuss the just-concluded agreement as part of the civilian-nuclear deal. The PM, who met the Left leaders a day earlier, assured them the deal would not impact India's strategic programme.

But the BJP leaders said their apprehensions were not dispelled completely. Vajpayee contended that under the Hyde Act provisions, India would lose its option of conducting a nuclear weapons test once the deal takes effect. The BJP leaders said the Hyde Act was clear that nuclear business would be terminated if any country under the civilian nuclear deal did a test or an experiment.

The two-hour meeting saw Singh brief Vajpayee on the salient features of the 123 agreement reached in Washington last week. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, National Security Advisor MK Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodar assisted the PM.

"Will the Act and its implication be set aside because of the 123 pact? This remains the big question," said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad. He said the party's position was that the deal should not compromise India's security, nuclear sovereignty and foreign policy and its investments.

Former Union minister Arun Shourie asked what would happen to Indian investments in US nuclear technology if Washington terminated the deal after a test. He also referred to the PM's approval to a task force to review existing policy on disarmament, non-proliferation and other security-related issues.

"They were trying to assure us that the agreement would have no impact on our weapons programme and the three-stage nuclear programme and that all our concerns about reprocessing of fuel have been taken care of," said Yashwant Sinha.

"We have no reason to distrust him, but we would like to first go through the text of the draft agreement," he said. "The text of the agreement is clearly frozen. Neither India nor the US can now make any changes. But they (government) have not shared with us the text. They tried to share only the main elements of the agreement," Sinha added.

First Published: Jul 27, 2007 02:25 IST