Government committed to n-deal, India working for NSG nod

March 13th, 2008 - 9:51 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi/Washington, March 13 (IANS) Even as the Left parties continue to oppose it, the government has indicated it plans to push ahead with the civilian nuclear deal with the US. The government is working to get the nuclear fuel suppliers to change their guidelines, a key step that will open the way for resumption of global nuclear trade with India. “We are working towards getting the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to alter its guidelines,” Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha Thursday.

“There can be no nuclear commerce till the NSG amends its guidelines,” he maintained.

Chavan’s remarks, coming as they do days before the crucial United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left meeting, likely March 17, to discuss the specifics of India’s draft safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suggests that the government will try to persuade the Left to allow it to go to the NSG, that will reopen doors of nuclear commerce for India with other friendly countries like Russia and France.

The government will project nuclear energy as environment-friendly clean energy to win over sceptical countries in the NSG. The recent appointment of Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on the nuclear deal Shyam Saran as the special envoy on climate change pointed to the government’s strategy of blending environmental correctness with nuclear energy at the NSG.

In Washington, India’s ambassador Ronen Sen stressed that the government was “committed” to the civilian nuclear deal, adding that India was bound only by the bilateral 123 agreement and not by the Hyde Act, a US enabling legislation that allows the US to resume civil nuclear commerce with India.

“As far as the status of the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement is concerned… I would like to say clearly and categorically that the government is committed to that,” Sen said at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies’ India Initiative programme of George Washington University.

“There is still work in progress. We are a democracy and there are certain processes which have to be over and that is not complete; and we have to take subsequent steps from international forums,” he said while alluding to the safeguards agreement with the IAEA and an exemption from the NSG.

The Left parties that support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government from outside have repeatedly threatened to pull the plug if it proceeds with the nuclear deal.

There has also been talk of an early election, if push comes to the shove. But External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated last week that the government would not be sacrificed for the sake of the nuclear deal.

Chavan’s statement came in response to a question posed by Sushma Swaraj (Bharatiya Janata Party) as to whether Australia had threatened to stop the supply of uranium in case India tested a nuclear weapon.

“We have never got uranium from Australia,” Chavan stated.

“In August 2007, Australia indicated it was willing to supply uranium to India. It was agreed that a meeting would be held at the official level. That meeting was not held,” he added.

Swaraj, however, persisted with her question, in response to which Chavan said: “When there have never been any supplies of uranium, where is the question of stopping these?”

His remarks on the NSG were made in this context.

Manmohan Singh, who was present in the house, sat impassively through the exchanges.

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