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Jaswant still coy about mole, Jethmalani takes aim

WITH CONTROVERSY tagging his memoir, A Call to Honour, former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh on Tuesday tried to explain why he remained silent for so long about the mole in P.V. Narasimha Rao's PMO. He said the spy ? no longer in India nor in service ? did not "give away much" to the US. Singh too did not reveal much at his first press conference after the book's release.
By HT Correspondent | None, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 26, 2006 01:35 AM IST

WITH CONTROVERSY tagging his memoir, A Call to Honour, former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh on Tuesday tried to explain why he remained silent for so long about the mole in P.V. Narasimha Rao's PMO. He said the spy — no longer in India nor in service — did not "give away much" to the US. Singh too did not reveal much at his first press conference after the book's release.

But another controversy soon followed. Singh's former colleague in the NDA government, Ram Jethmalani, sent him a letter, asking him to apologise to the nation as he had committed "a criminal offence" by not disclosing to the police what he knew about the spy. He said the mole was committing offences, "they act for huge bribes".

Singh said if he had revealed the mole's identity while the NDA was in power, it would have been labelled a witch-hunt. He said, "With the NDA government carrying out the needed nuclear tests and the central purpose of the government having been achieved, the disclosure would have appeared to be politics of vendetta."

He said, moreover, the country was passing through a period of "uncertainty" and his government was trying to ensure that preparations for Pokhran II were kept under wraps, away from American eyes in the sky and on the ground.

The only hints Singh dropped about the mole: he "was in the PMO in a high position", was privy to a lot of information and he was "not in service and not in India now". Singh said the spy did not "give away much to the US by way of nuclear secrets except some details about the country's intentions and programmes".

Asked why he did not inform intelligence agencies about the document, the BJP leader said, "The contents of the letter did not warrant any such investigation, certainly not by the Delhi Police." But Jethmalani would disagree. In his letter, Jethmalani said, “It was your plain duty to denounce the mole to the police authorities. This was your duty as a normal citizen u/s 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. While you were writing your book, you were committing a criminal offence from day-to-day u/s 176 of the Penal Code.”

Jethmalani said, "You’ve sworn to uphold the law. Law can’t be upheld if those who know of its infraction conceal it in their bosom and open up only when they publish a book."  Singh said he referrd to the mole to point out that the US was fully in the know of India's nuclear plans prior to Pokhran II, where it was caught unawares.

Parrying a question on whether he had kept former PM A.B. Vajpayee informed about the mole, Singh said he shared the information with whosoever mattered at that time.

He said he would share with the PM all the information he had. Sources in the PMO said it had received a request for a meeting but no date has been fixed.

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