Advani wants joint parliamentary panel to review 123 pact

June 3rd, 2008 - 6:55 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 3 (IANS) Rejecting the India-US civilian nuclear deal, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Tuesday called for a scrutiny by a joint parliamentary committee of the 123 agreement, stressing it should be “redrafted” to give New Delhi the freedom to conduct nuclear tests. “We can’t do it on the written understanding that from now onwards there will be no Pokhran-III,” Advani, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections, said here while referring to the 123 agreement that will operationalise the nuclear deal.

“The 123 agreement should be redrafted to insulate India from the effects of the Hyde Act (the US domestic legislation on the nuclear deal) that prohibits nuclear tests by India,” Advani replied at a function when asked about his party’s reservations on the nuclear deal.

India conducted its first nuclear test in Pokhran in Rajasthan in 1974 when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government conducted the second set of tests, called Pokhran-II, in May 1998 and declared India a nuclear weapon state.

Reiterating his party’s stand that the BJP can’t be expected to support a deal that robs India of its strategic autonomy to conduct the tests, Advani asked for a review of the 123 agreement by a joint parliamentary panel.

“In parliament, the prime minister has given us assurances many a time. But these assurances are not reflected in the 123 agreement,” said Advani, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha.

He was referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s repeated assurances to parliament over the last three years that the deal did not compromise India’s strategic autonomy or its right to conduct nuclear tests.

“We had told the government that let 123 be considered by a joint parliamentary committee. Instead, they formed a joint committee with the Left parties,” he said.

He was responding to questions from the audience after delivering a valedictory address at a function organized by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Asscoham).

“Had the joint parliamentary committee been formed, we would have conveyed our reservations about the deal,” Advani stressed.

He, however, indicated that his party will be open to re-negotiating the deal, if it comes to power, as it is not opposed per se to a nuclear deal with the US.

“Our reservation is not that we will be getting uranium from the US. My party is not at all against getting nuclear fuel from the US,” he said while reminding the audience that it was the NDA government that started a process of rapprochement with the US.

He was trying to distinguish his party’s opposition to the deal from that of the Left parties that have objected not so much to the text of the 123 agreement, but to the larger context of the deal which, according to them, will reduce India to a handmaiden of the US’ strategic interests in the region.

In a document on foreign policy, the BJP Monday had asked the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition to “end the charade” and “take a clear stand” on the nuclear deal.

Unrelenting in its rejection of the deal, the BJP document attacked the government for its attempt “to reduce India to a second-class status in the global nuclear order” and narrowing the multi-faceted India-US relations to “a single issue”.

The nuclear deal is currently stalled due to the Left parties’ uncompromising opposition to it. The Communist allies of the government must approve of India’s safeguards pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before the deal can go forward.

If the Left and the government do not mend fences on the deal, its fate will be virtually doomed - at least in the near future.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Politics |