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NDA criticises UPA for ‘hiding’ draft agreement from people

Leaders of the NDA did a quick reading of the draft of the India-specific safeguards agreement on the Ministry of External Affairs website and expressed outrage, reports Shekhar Iyer.
By Shekhar Iyer | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 11, 2008 12:20 AM IST

Leaders of the NDA did a quick reading of the draft of the India-specific safeguards agreement on the Ministry of External Affairs website and expressed outrage over “the deceitful and duplicitous action” of the “minority” UPA government in approaching the IAEA for ratification of the nuclear deal without establishing its majority in Parliament.

As former Union Minister Arun Shourie analysed the draft for alliance leaders gathered at L.K. Advani’s residence, they concluded that all assurances given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding the deal had been thrown to winds.

While the NDA leaders reserved their detailed criticism of the draft for a later date, they condemned the government’s action in circulating “the draft agreement virtually across the world except to the people of India”.

Advani said the NDA demanded that the PM seek a vote of confidence in Parliament immediately to prevent horse-trading for staying in office for some more months. “The nation has lost faith in the opportunistic and untrustworthy UPA regime. A minority government cannot be allowed to barter away the nation’s interests by the back door,” he said.

“What is the government trying to hide? The NDA suspects there is a conspiracy afoot to present the nation with a fait accompli on the deal by rushing through it behind closed doors. No government — least of all a minority government — can be permitted to make commitments on an issue so fundamental to the country’s long-term interests and national security,” Advani said.

Advani, who addressed a press conference with several leaders including BJP chief Rajnath Singh, JD(U)’s George Fernandes and Sharad Yadav and a representative of the Shiromani Akali Dal, said, “India had been denied the status of a nuclear weapons state and the IAEA provisions for non-nuclear states had been imposed on the country”.

He said, “Barely 48 hours ago, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee categorically declared that the government would approach IAEA only after seeking a trust vote in the Lok Sabha. He insisted he was giving this assurance after consulting the PM who was abroad.

“In fact, the PM committed that all parliamentary norms would be followed in response to my demand for summoning Parliament immediately for the government to seek a trust vote. But surreptitiously, even before he returned to Delhi from the G8 Summit in Japan, his government has approached the IAEA and the draft safeguards agreement has been circulated among 25 members of the IAEA Board,” Advani said.

He said, “The government has lost all credibility by its actions and its word cannot be believed any more. If its senior-most Minister’s solemn declaration about seeking a trust vote before going to the IAEA can be so summarily overturned, how can the PM be trusted with anything? It is capable of going back on assurances even before the ink is dry”.

Replying to queries, Advani said if the government had accepted the BJP’s demand for a joint parliamentary committee, an acceptable draft agreement could have been drawn up.

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