PM confident of trust vote, upbeat about n-deal (Lead)

July 15th, 2008 - 3:01 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) As the clock ticks away for the trust vote set for July 22, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday expressed confidence about winning it and said the nuclear deal would “in no way impinge” on India’s strategic programme nor compromise the country’s foreign policy. “People of India understand the significance of the nuclear deal. The nuclear deal will in no way impinge on India’s strategic programme,” Manmohan Singh told senior editors from the electronic media at a breakfast meeting at his 7 Race Course residence.

It would not compromise India’s independent foreign policy, Manmohan Singh said, while underlining that the India-US nuclear deal would end a nearly three-decade long “nuclear apartheid” against the country.

The prime minister also expressed confidence that the people of India understood the significance of the initiatives being taken by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and would endorse them.

Underlining the global character of the nuclear deal, the prime minister stressed that the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would enable the country to cooperate in civil nuclear energy development with all the 45 member countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), including the US, Russia, France and China.

He emphasised that India’s strategic programme was “entirely outside the purview” of the safeguards agreement with the Vienna-based IAEA and would, therefore, not affect strategic deterrence of the country.

The government is planning to brief key members of the IAEA before the agency’s board of governors meeting which is likely to take place Aug 1. After the board approves the agreement, the NSG will have to decide on amending its guidelines to allow global nuclear commerce with New Delhi.

The last step in completing the nuclear deal entails an endorsement of the enabling 123 agreement by the US Congress, which is expected to take place by September if the preceding two steps are completed in time.

The prime minister also allayed anxieties in some quarters about the nuclear deal allegedly sucking India into a strategic alliance with the US, saying India would “never allow any extraneous interference in the conduct of our independent foreign policy”. India would continue to seek good relations with all our Asian neighbours, he added.

He underlined his government’s commitment to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and India’s strong reaction to reports indicating an alleged US-backed Israeli plan to launch a military strike on Iran.

New Delhi had issued a strongly-worded statement Monday saying that such a strike would have “disastrous consequences for the entire region” and asked all countries to seek a solution to the contentious Iranian nuclear programme suspected of developing nuclear weapons through dialogue and not coercion.

With double-digit inflation still soaring, the prime minister said his government was taking concrete steps “to insulate the poor” from rising prices of essential commodities.

In his free-wheeling conversation with select editors lasting nearly an hour, the prime minister outlined the steps taken by his government to sustain the growth momentum and curb inflation.

It was not a typical inflation as it was spurred by rising prices of global crude oil, he stressed.

Alluding to various initiatives taken by the government to make the growth process socially inclusive, including the “measures taken to insulate the poor to the extent possible from inflation”, he also outlined the initiatives being taken to boost agricultural production and farmers’ welfare.

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