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Stung, Singh returns sellout fire

Frankfurt, July 16: Chafing at criticism that his government’s eagerness to forge closer ties with the US amounts to a “sellout” of India’s national interests, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described such allegations as an “insult”.

An emotional Singh said: “I will safeguard it (national interest) at the cost of my life.”

The Prime Minister has come under attack from the Left parties which have expressed apprehensions about his US visit in their party organs as well as in face-to-face meetings. And he has been at pains to allay such fears.

An upset Singh wondered how such allegations could be made against the Congress “which has produced the most outstanding leaders of our freedom struggle and who gave their lives to defend the dignity and honour of this country”.

How could anyone even imagine that “any Prime Minister of the Congress party will ever think consciously or unconsciously to sell India cheap”'

“India is not for sale,” Singh said, adding that it was the “unquestionable” obligation of the Prime Minister as the “bound servant of the people of India” to preserve and protect India’s interests and rights in the international arena.

At the same time, the Prime Minister made a strong case for finding areas of convergence with the US to create a facilitating environment for India’s economic growth.

He said the US was a superpower whose influence extended to almost every world arena. It was not always necessary or possible that all the interests of the US would coincide with those of India, the Prime Minister said.

Yet, he argued, “we cannot develop in isolation. We need a supporting international environment. And, therefore, we need to make every effort to find areas of convergence... with the US”.

Singh said the purpose of his visit to was to give the US administration an opportunity to understand India’s domestic and international concerns and “to enlist their cooperation in achieving our objectives”.

He hoped that his visit would contribute to a better understanding of India’s commitment and concerns “as a responsible nuclear power that accepts all the rights and obligations” which go with such a status.

India, he said, had been subjected to several restrictive and discriminatory measures in a number of technology areas ' especially nuclear technology to generate power. These were outdated and should go. India is seeking some understanding with the US to facilitate purchase of civilian nuclear reactors in the world market.

About the perception that there was no point joining the UN Security Council without veto power, Singh said India had to recognise that it was not possible to realise all aspirations immediately and “so we have to persevere”.

The Prime Minister said the issue of terrorism would be discussed in his meeting with President George W. Bush but refused to comment about Pakistan continuing to be a breeding ground for terrorists. “I don’t like to demonise a people,” he said.

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