| Manmohan Singh at a programme to mark former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary in New Delhi on Monday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Aug. 20: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sprang economic logic on opponents of the nuclear deal and appealed for a political consensus to keep “India on the move” through a sound energy security strategy.
Speaking at an ONGC event, the Prime Minister did not mention the nuclear deal but put up a spirited defence of the energy policy that his government wants to put in place if the agreement in America came through.
Basing his contention on financial compulsions, Singh said India needed to develop nuclear energy as an alternative power source. Otherwise, “as we grow, our growing... bill for imported crude oil will put an unbearable burden on our economy”, he said.
Singh said all energy resources — coal, gas, oil, hydro and nuclear along with renewables — need to be developed.
“No government can afford to shirk this responsibility and hope to find favour with the people,” Singh said in what could be construed as a direct reply to his critics on why he pursued the nuclear deal with vigour.
The Prime Minister also left no one in doubt on where his priorities lay. “From a long-term perspective, nuclear energy and solar energy can play an important role in addressing our energy security needs. Our government is committed to the development of nuclear energy.”
Indirectly tying the deal to the economic growth plank, Singh said: “I urge all political parties to appreciate the vital interest of pursuing a sound energy security strategy. India is on the move and we must be able to address its growing energy demand.”
The unequivocal comments betrayed no hint that his government is locked in a make-or-wreck standoff with the Left on the very issue.
“When we aim for a 10 per cent growth rate, we must recognise the critical importance of energy security,” Singh said, iterating that India must find cheaper alternatives to oil and gas imports.
Indian and US deal-makers have been telling critics that the civilian nuclear agreement was aimed at assisting India in meeting its energy needs in a manner that causes less pollution.
Articulating another stand that will not find favour with the Left, Singh called for economic pricing of energy. “In our country, we have excessively interfered with energy pricing. Each time our utilities have to raise rates, extraneous considerations come in,” he said.