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'Left worried about ideology, not growth'

Former AEC chairman MR Srinivasan slams the Left for their opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2007 16:51 IST

A senior member of the Atomic Energy Commission has slammed the Left parties for their opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal, saying they were only worried about their ideology and do not bother about the country's GDP growth.

"It does not matter to them whether GDP growth suffers or not so long as they have their ideology," MR Srinivasan, also former Chairman of AEC, said in an address to the Rotary Club in Bangalore on Monday night. <b1>

"Their main concern is India and the US are coming closer, especially in strategic terms, and they (Left parties) think this is something they cannot stomach," he said.

According to him, while India needs to have good relations with China, it is not a good thing to have a strong China and a weak India in a long haul. "A strong India and a strong China is good for both countries and also to the world."

Strengthening of relations with the US should be seen as "hedging your risk" so that New Delhi is not left "high and dry," he advocated.

Srinivasan also did not spare the BJP, which has also opposed the agreement, and said the party now keeps saying that the pact affects the country's nuclear independence.

He noted that it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of the BJP-led NDA coalition who announced soon after the 1998 Pokhran tests that India would observe voluntary moratorium on further tests and also made an announcement on a "no first use" of nuclear weapons.

"These two (announcements)... Well... Looking back... One can ask what prompted him to say so... He could have negotiated... He could have used it as a negotiating tool," Srinivasan said.

He indicated that Vajpayee might have made the announcement heeding his advisors who wanted to promote him as a statesman and ideologist.

Srinivasan said in case India insists on renegotiation of the agreement following opposition and as a result of Parliamentary debate, the Bush administration is sure to ask New Delhi to wait till the new government takes charge in Washington.

The Bush administration would not enter into renegotiation with India as its clout in the US Congress is diminishing, he argued.

He said there is some urgency in operationalising the agreement as Indian-built reactors face uranium crunch. "We need to access uranium for our own reactors which are operating well. Our ability to produce natural uranimum in the country to keep pace with that (projected requirement) is limited because of low quality of ore," and also opposition in some quarters for mining in Meghalaya and Cudappah in Andhra Pradesh. There is a "mismatch" in demand and supply. <b2>

But Srinivasan said if political decision making requires that New Delhi renegotiate the agreement, then "we have to accept that, nothing can be done about that."

Srinivasan quoted some people, who said while it took China 13 years to negotiate the 123 agreement with the US, it took only two years for India to enter into similar pact with Washington. "So, some people are seeing 13 years as benchmark (for India to operationalise the deal with the US)," he said.

Supporting the India-US nuclear agreement, he said, "I think it's an agreement we can live with. It's the best agreement under the circumstances if you move ahead," adding, any deal involves give and take from both sides.

He also sought to respond to the position taken by some people that "we have done quite well in isolated mode, and why not continue to isolate ourselves".

Srinivasan said as a man who was associated with the nuclear programme for long and as one who fought embargoes, "it's not a good thing to work in isolation. It's good for us to be in the international mode. Science and Technology in some sense flows internationally."

Having survived the phase of sanctions and embargoes, India should not make virtue of that situation which came about despite New Delhi not wanting it, he argued.

Speaking on the Indian nuclear programme from early times, Srinivasan said towards the end of 1980s when renowned journalist Kuldip Nayar, the former Rajya Sabha member, visited Pakistan, he was told by Pakistanis that Islamabad had nuclear bombs.

Pakistan nuclear scientist, AQ Khan had earlier managed to take uranimum from Holland, where he was working, to Pakistan in a clandestine manner and then had a network of equipment suppliers in Europe, according to Srinivasan.

"Given that situation, it became pretty much inevitable that we had to go ahead (with our nuclear tests)", he said.

In the mid-1990s, he said the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao gave the go-ahead signal to conduct the nuclear tests but "it appears that at some point of time...Either American pressure or whatever...He seems to have retracted... that was the general impression."

First Published: Aug 28, 2007 13:46 IST