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Singh douses security fears, blames N-haze

Washington, July 20: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today claimed that criticism of his US visit was based on “misconception” and said nothing would be done to compromise India’s strategic interests.

He announced that he would make a statement in Parliament explaining the understanding reached with the US. “We can move forward only on the basis of a broad national consensus,” he said.

Singh said he had not seen the statement made by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee charging that the separation of India’s civil and military nuclear programme would compromise national security.

However, the Prime Minister said: “If that statement has been made, I think it has been made on the basis of wrong information or misconception.”

“The separation between civilian and strategic nuclear facilities will be a national decision. It will be taken on the basis of our security concerns being fully taken into account. The decision will be phased in a manner that will protect our autonomy in matters relating to (our) strategic concerns,” he clarified.

Except in the US where the civilian nuclear reactors are entirely in the private sector, such separation is not easy even for the Nuclear Haves. India has also agreed to open its civilian reactors to international inspections and verification in return for access to such reactors in the international market.

The Prime Minister insisted that all obligations had been taken “fully on the basis of reciprocity”. He claimed that “only when some steps are taken by the US to our satisfaction that we will take the steps (we have to take). It is certainly not true that this is one-sided.”

Singh seemed keen on allaying fears at home that accepting specific and open obligations as a precondition for nuclear cooperation with the US might amount to capping India’s weapons capability.

There is also criticism that India has entered into binding commitments while President George W. Bush will only “seek” agreement from the US Congress to change laws to permit civilian nuclear cooperation with India ' an uphill task.

Thus, Singh said: “I sincerely hope that the US administration will use all its influence to convert this (joint) statement into reality.” Only that would enable the supply of civilian nuclear reactors to India.

The Prime Minister said India would create conditions for US support for its candidature to the expanded UN Security Council. President Bush apparently told him that US opposition to the G4 resolution on reforming the Security Council did not mean a rejection of India’s candidature by the US.

“My own feeling is that when the time comes, the US will be on our side although I cannot assert that as of now,” Singh said.

Not only the initiative with the US but even the peace process with Pakistan and the engagement with China will be pushed through, the Prime Minister said, denying that his government lacked the political capital to push any big-ticket initiatives.

“We are a coalition government but I have great faith in the inherent patriotism of our people. And my own feeling is that whatever initiatives we take, whether it is with the US, Pakistan or China, I am confident of taking our coalition partners and the Opposition together,” Singh claimed.

However, the Prime Minister said he had emphasised at every forum in Washington “the necessity of terrorist elements being brought under control as a pre-condition for our moving forward with Pakistan”.

In this way then he has put the onus on the US also to put pressure on Islamabad to do the right thing.

The Prime Minister also emphasised that his visit to the US was “not directed against any other power”.

Specifically referring to China, he said India’s engagement with its “great neighbour in the north” would continue apace. A “resurgent India”, he said, would be good for growth in Asia as well as the world.

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