The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM’s nuclear-normal message to military

New Delhi, Oct. 24: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today briefed military commanders on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and emphasised its importance in ensuring energy security in a clear signal that he was not jettisoning the pact yet despite the opposition from the Left.

Alongside talking to political partners since the rift with the Left on the deal opened up, today’s address to military commanders is an effort by Singh to take it to one of the key constituents — the armed forces — of the government.

Singh made the remarks at a special annual event — the combined commanders’ conference — and not in a public forum. He also spoke on other issues that immediately concern the armed forces — such as human rights in counter-insurgency areas and procurement — but it was his explanation of the nuclear deal that the military top brass listened to intently.

Singh’s views also echoed in a meeting that the Prime Minister had with a delegation from an organisation of Indian Americans on Tuesday. “We... found him determined to take the civilian nuclear agreement forward despite some opposition typical in a vibrant democracy like India,” said Sanjay Puri, chairman of the Washington-based US-India Political Action Committee.

But it was the Prime Minister’s speech at the defence headquarters this morning that gave the military top brass the impression that the government was determined to stay the course on the deal.

The combined commanders’ conference is an event where senior officers, cabinet ministers and generals discuss and outline the strategic, operational and logistical requirements for the next year.

In a departure from convention, the Prime Minister’s Office did not release copies of the speech at the commanders’ conference or extracts. The decision to not release a copy contrasts sharply with the plea for transparency in government policy the Prime Minister made in his address.

A source said Singh spoke “at great length on the deal and he talked about the necessity and the future of the deal”. He also talked of the steps required to be taken to implement the deal.

The source would not say if the Prime Minister gave a roadmap beginning with when India would go to the International Atomic Energy Agency for a safeguards agreement.

The Prime Minister said Indian military research and development should be intensified and that it was important to overcome international technology-denial regimes.

In a statement today on the meeting with Singh last evening, the Indian American outfit, USINPAC, said: “The message that the Prime Minister wanted the delegation to take back to America was that his government is working to take this deal forward.”


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