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India retains right to nuclear test: Govt

The Govt’s assertion comes on the eve of CPM's two-day politburo meeting beginning on Friday, HT reports.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2007 18:02 IST

The government on Thursday refuted the US state department’s statement linking termination of the Indo-US nuclear deal with India carrying out a nuclear test.

The government’s emphatic assertion that the deal does not impinge on India’s right to conduct a nuclear test and is in the national interest came on the eve of the CPM’s two-day politburo meeting beginning in the Capital on Friday.

<b1>“There is nothing in the bilateral agreement that the government has entered into with the US to tie the hands of a future government to undertake a nuclear test,’’ External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in the Lok Sabha. The Left walked out as Mukherjee was making his statement while slogan-shouting BJP and Third Front MPs stormed the well of the House.

The BJP gave notices of privilege motions against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for “misleading” Parliament over the deal.

MPs of the Left parties walked out of the Lok Sabha during Mukherjee’s statement, indicating the hardened stand the communists are likely to take at the two-day meeting of the CPM politburo, starting Friday.

As the Left’s position on the deal was hardening, Mukherjee met the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury in a bid to soften its stand against the deal. The prime minister is to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya over dinner on Friday as sources indicated that Congress President Sonia Gandhi could step into the picture at a later stage if the Left continues with its opposition to the deal.

In his statement in the Lok Sabha, Mukherjee sought to allay the fears of the Left parties and the Opposition parties. He said, “India has the sovereign right to test and would do so if necessary in the national interest. The only restraint is our voluntary unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, declared by the previous (NDA) government... A decision to undertake a future nuclear test would rest solely with the Government of India.”

Mukherjee said the word “testing” is not mentioned anywhere in the agreement. He added that the provisions in Articles 5 and 14 ensures continuous operation of India’s reactors, even in case of cessation of bilateral cooperation.

First Published: Aug 16, 2007 21:32 IST