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No retreat on nuke plan: Manmohan

The PM has assured Parliament that New Delhi alone will decide on the nuclear facilities' separation plan.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 10:47 IST

Ahead of US President George Bush's visit to India on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday emphasised that India will not accept any "limitation" on its strategic programme even as New Delhi negotiates a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Washington.

"Nothing that could compromise our strategic deterrence has been shared with anyone," Manmohan Singh assured Parliament.

Underlining "reciprocal" obligations by both sides and India's "exemplary record in non-proliferation," he said: "We will offer to place only those facilities that can be classified as civilian without affecting our strategic interests and the autonomy of our three-stage nuclear programme," he told the Rajya Sabha (Upper House).

Singh, however, clarified that a decision on separating India's civilian and military nuclear facilities will be solely that of New Delhi.

Singh was trying to allay fears expressed in a section of the political establishment, most notably the Leftist parties, allies of the ruling coalition, that the implementation of the July 18, 2005 civil nuclear cooperation deal would implicitly put a cap on India's nuclear arsenal.

With less than 48 hours to go before Bush comes here on a landmark visit aimed at taking India-US relations to a new high, the two sides are focusing on clinching a nuclear agreement just in time for the visit.

US ambassador David Mulford Monday set an upbeat tone about the resolution of a nuclear agreement. "We are hoping that we can reach an agreement by the time of the president's visit. And every effort is being made to do so," Mulford told news agency reporters at Roosevelt House.

"But if we don't, we can keep negotiating later," he added.

In interviews to Indian journalists Bush said: "We've just got to continue to come up with an agreement that both of us can live with."

The proposed civil nuclear cooperation agreement will make exception for India, a nuclear weapon state that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to allow it to get critically important nuclear technology and fuel denied to it for decades.

First Published: Feb 27, 2006 00:54 IST