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Long-range cloud on nuke deal
- NDA big guns send dissent letter to President, say conditions ‘cannot bind India in the future’

New Delhi, June 21: Leaders of the NDA have claimed that the Indo-US deal “cannot bind India in the future” as it is not based on national consensus.

This amounts to a threat that any future non-UPA government would be free to abrogate the deal.

In a strongly-worded letter to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, signed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, George Fernandes and Jaswant Singh among others, the NDA leaders have accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of “repeatedly” misleading Parliament and the people of India on the nuclear deal.

They claimed Parliament was not kept informed while the US Congress was fully briefed about the agreement and the inspection regime being negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“The paradox is that while detailed discussions are taking place on the future of the Indian nuclear programme in the US Congress, Parliament of India is deliberately kept in the dark,” the letter claimed.

It also claimed that the Prime Minister had misled Parliament as “it is clear now from the statements made by US officials before the US Congress that neither parity nor reciprocity will be made available to India under this deal”.

The Prime Minister had assured Parliament after his US visit in July last year that actions of the two sides would be reciprocal and that India would get the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with “advanced nuclear technology, such as the US”. This was also stated in the joint statement of July 18, 2005, issued from Washington DC.

The NDA leaders have dismissed this claim in their letter: “India will continue to be treated in a discriminatory manner, something we have been opposed to all along. Thus, even the limited comfort that there was in the agreement of July 2005 will now be denied to India.”

Going a step further, they have questioned the fundamental basis of the agreement premised on separation of India’s civilian and military nuclear facilities. They have said such a separation was “difficult, expensive and has implications for our strategic programme and is unwarranted”.

Further, they have questioned the negotiation with the IAEA for an inspection regime and an additional protocol, claiming that this was “fraught with complex dangers”.

“Inspections by the IAEA will be intrusive and will rob our scientists of the freedom they have enjoyed all along,” the letter says. Conditions more onerous than under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) would be imposed on India under the Waiver Authority Bill introduced in the US Congress, the NDA leaders stated.

What the NDA leaders are referring to is the fact that while the CTBT allows resumption of nuclear tests by its signatories ' neither India nor the US is a signatory ' the US Congress wants India to give a bilateral commitment not to test at all. It is unwilling to accept India’s voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests. Should such a commitment be given, India ' fearing US sanctions and cessation of nuclear cooperation with it ' would not be able to resume nuclear tests even citing “national interest”. But the US would retain its freedom to test.

The NDA leaders have appealed to the President to recognise that India’s nuclear programme, including its weapons programme, had “never been a single party’s or only a one-government programme”. Instead, they argue, it had always been “fully backed by national consensus and a strong national will”. Today, there was neither a consensus on the nuclear deal nor an attempt to build one.

Claiming that “an overwhelming majority” of MPs were against the deal, the NDA leaders claimed that the present government could not be allowed to “undo the work of last 60 years, to cap our strategic nuclear programme and to also expose our nuclear scientists to undue interference in their work from sources outside India”.

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