The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Faith in history, PM asserts test freedom

New Delhi, Aug. 13: Taunted by the Left on the nuclear deal and wounded by his own party’s perceived reluctance to defend him in public, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he would prefer to be judged by the unbiased hand of history.

The Prime Minister also went beyond the publicised text of the agreement to assert that India’s rights have not been compromised.

“…we have achieved an agreement that is good for India and good for the world. I am neither given to exaggeration nor am I known to be self-congratulatory. I will let history judge. I will let posterity judge the value of what we have done through this agreement. In days to come, it will be seen that it is not just the US but nations across the world that wish to arrive at a new equilibrium in their relations with India,’’ the Prime Minister told the Lok Sabha today.

By then, the Left had walked out of the House and the BJP-led Opposition was creating a din.

But Singh soldiered on for around 45 minutes, alternating between cold nuclear facts and a barely concealed assertion that he had not sold out to America.

Perhaps, the Prime Minister was appealing to a larger audience beyond Parliament, to a growing class that believes that it is in India ’s interest to engage widely with the US.

In the end, though, the theme that recurred was the answer to the Left charge that he was particularly sensitive about ties with the US.

Singh emphasised that the agreement was one between “equals’’ and it fully protected India’s strategic independence in every way. “It is an agreement between two states possessing advanced nuclear technologies, both parties having the same benefits and advantages. We have negotiated this agreement as an equal partner…. (It does not) in any way inhibit, restrict or curtail our strategic autonomy or capabilities.”

Singh also made assertions more categorical than the 123 text, which restricts itself to an exposition of the nature of the civil nuclear relationship between India and the US.

The text does not talk about the possibility of India conducting a nuclear test, preferring the term “unforeseen circumstances”.

The pact also skirts the implied delinking of the civil and military programmes, only saying that the US will help guarantee uninterrupted fuel supplies from other countries.

However, in his statement today, Singh was so frank about the gains India has extracted from the US that he could put the Bush administration in trouble with America’s non-proliferation lobby.

India and the US, the Prime Minister said, “have agreed that the implementation of the agreement will not hinder or otherwise interfere with India’s nuclear activities, including our military nuclear facilities”.

He added: “We have not consented to any provision that mandates scrutiny of our nuclear weapons programme or any unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.’’

Singh was more forthright on future tests. “The agreement does not in any way affect India’s right to undertake future nuclear tests if it is necessary in India’s national interest.’’

He pointed out that it had been made clear to the US that in case it demanded the return of equipment or fuel it had given India, such an act “would have profound implications and consequences’’ for the bilateral relationship.

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