|Singh and Sonia at the AICC session in Delhi. Pictures by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, Nov. 17: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today punctured the Left’s campaign that signing the 123 Agreement would “undermine” India’s sovereignty by declaring that “nobody can bend India in any way”.
Addressing the All India Congress Committee, he departed from his written speech to answer the Left’s propaganda without directly joining issue with it: “India is too big a country. We have the virasat, the heritage of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi. Nobody can bend India in any way.”
The delegates gave him the loudest applause any speaker received today, an indication of how much the Left’s anti-deal offensive had hurt the Congress.
Singh said the propaganda on how the nuclear deal would “hurt” India’s strategic programmes and undermine its independent foreign policy was “totally false”.
He justified the deal purely in the context of India’s energy needs. “If we see the pace at which our economy is growing, it becomes apparent that we will have to expand our power generation capacity on a massive scale.
“It is also apparent that it will be impossible to fulfil our needs solely through thermal and hydro-electric power. We need to locate new sources of energy if we want to maintain our growth and we want to eliminate poverty. One possible source is nuclear power.”
Explaining that this route had so far been closed, he said the nuclear deal was “an effort to open closed doors” so that India could obtain fuel and technology from other countries and meet the electricity shortage.
“You need to understand this reality and explain it to our people,” he said.
Singh obliquely sought to dispel an impression that India’s foreign policy had become US-centric by acknowledging the country’s dependence on West Asia and the Persian Gulf for petroleum and energy requirements.
“We have had a historic and long-standing relationship with the countries of the Middle-East and the Persian Gulf…. We have always sought peace in this region — be it Iraq, be it Iran or be it any other country. The bulk of our petroleum and energy requirements come from this region and our energy security is critically dependent on the conditions there,” he said.
Sonia Gandhi and the AICC’s omnibus resolution backed Singh and the deal to the hilt.
The Congress chief deliberately delivered her message on the deal in the second half of her speech made in Hindi so that delegates would comprehend it in the intended spirit.
“Self-reliance was the hallmark of our foreign policy from Jawaharlal Nehru’s time. And seeking international cooperation on our terms is part of this policy,” she said.
“The Prime Minister has assured the country several times that this agreement will not impact our nuclear programme. But I admit that there are parties in our coalition who have a different view of the deal. We are hoping to build a consensus by speaking with them.”
Reiterating Sonia’s views, the AICC resolution stressed that India believed in a foreign policy that upheld and promoted the interests of India. It slammed the “efforts of some political parties” to give the foreign policy a communal colour.