New Delhi, Feb. 27: The Prime Minister today narrated in Parliament the likely shape of a nuclear cooperation agreement that could be reached with the US.
Without giving any hint of whether the deal was through, Manmohan Singh told Parliament that only 65 per cent of the country’s total installed nuclear power capacity would be opened to international inspections.
This would leave 35 per cent in the military category, allowing India to pursue its weapons programme. It is to be seen whether the US accepts this. Singh said the negotiations were at a “delicate stage”.
“In our dialogue with our interlocutors, we have judged every proposal made by the US side on merits, but we remain firm in that the decision of what facilities may be identified as civilian will be made by India alone and not anyone else,” the Prime Minister said.
But he conceded India would not “underestimate” the difficulties and the “complex” issues involved. He cited the fast-breeder programme and India’s fuel-cycle capabilities (such as reprocessing and enrichment requirements) as aspects that lent themselves to “differing interpretations” in the public domain.
“We have, however, conveyed to our interlocutors that while discussing the separation plan, there are details of the nature and content of our strategic requirements that we cannot share.”
Singh made it clear that neither the indigenous fast-breeder programme nor other research and development facilities would be put under international safeguards allowing inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But he did not set a timetable for separating the civilian and military nuclear programmes; so it wasn’t clear how many of the present nuclear power plants would be put under the inspection regime.
What seemed clear is that indigenous nuclear reactors under construction ' there are eight of them ' will also eventually be put under safeguards.
But in case he decides to keep some of the reactors ' current and under-construction ' out of the civilian list, the Prime Minister could argue that there has been “no erosion of the integrity of our nuclear doctrine, either in terms of current or future capabilities”.
Singh said some facilities of the department of atomic energy (DAE) may be added to the civilian list, but stressed that no nuclear material will be diverted from civilian to military use.
He said the separation plan would protect India’s “vital research and development interests” and not undermine or hinder the three-stage nuclear programme.
After keeping quiet for nearly seven months while the scientific community and the DAE were being attacked publicly, leading to suspicion of the government’s acquiescence, the Prime Minister today paid tribute to their efforts.
He claimed that “the nation was justly proud of the tremendous work of our nuclear scientists” and that India was valued today “precisely because of the high respect and admiration our scientists enjoy internationally”.