History will compliment us for n-deal: PM

July 22nd, 2008 - 10:44 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) Describing the nuclear deal as a passport to global nuclear trade and linking it up with national development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday said it is “a giant step forward” towards India becoming a major global power without compromising the country’s strategic programme or independent foreign policy. “I am convinced that despite their opportunistic opposition to the nuclear agreement, history will compliment the UPA government for having taken another giant step forward to lead India to become a major power centre of the evolving global economy,” Manmohan Singh told the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, in a stirring reply to two days of an acrimonious trust motion debate.

Copies of the speech were distributed after a belligerent opposition did not let him speak beyond a few sentences, demanding his resignation after three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs alleged that they were being bribed to abstain from voting.

The prime minister stressed that the nuclear agreement will not only “end India’s nuclear isolation, nuclear apartheid and enable the country to take advantage of international nuclear trade” but would also make it “an important exporter of nuclear technologies, and equipment for civilian purposes.”

“There is nothing in this agreement which will affect our strategic autonomy or our ability to pursue an independent foreign policy,” he said.

Underlining that it was not just an agreement with the US, Manmohan Singh said it was a “passport” for nuclear trade with all 45 NSG countries.

“Change in the NSG guidelines would be a passport to trade with 45 members of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) which includes Russia, France, and many other countries,” he said. He, however, thanked the US for taking initiative without which “India’s case for approval by the IAEA or the NSG would not have moved forward.”

Lashing out at opponents of the nuclear deal, particularly his one time Communist allies, for dictating terms to him at every stage of the negotiating process, he said the debate was “unnecessary” as he had assured them that the nuclear agreement “after being endorsed by the IAEA and the NSG would be submitted to this august House for expressing its view.”

“They wanted a veto over every single step of negotiations which is not acceptable. They wanted me to behave as their bonded slave,” he said.

He also underlined that although the nuclear agreement was not part of the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme, there was en “explicit mention” in the Congress election manifesto about “the need for strategic engagement with the USA and other great powers such as Russia.”

Rebutting allegations that the government was engaged in “secret or hidden agreements,” the prime minister said: “I wish to state categorically that there are no secret or hidden documents other than the 123 agreement, the Separation Plan and the draft of the safeguard agreement with the IAEA.”

He also underscored a major change in global perception of India from the time it conducted Pokhran II nuclear tests in 1998.

“I wish to remind the House that in 1998 when the Pokharan II tests were undertaken, the Group of Eight leading developed countries had passed a harsh resolution condemning India and called upon India to sign the NPT and CTBT,” he said.

“Today, at the Hokkaido meeting of the G-8 held recently in Japan, the chairman’s summary has welcomed cooperation in civilian nuclear energy between India and the international community,” he said.

This was a measure of the sea change in the perceptions of the international community that has come about in less than ten years, the prime minister said.

Repudiating critics’ contention, specially that of the estranged Left allies who alleged that the nuclear deal will make India a pawn of the US, the prime minister asserted: “I state categorically that our foreign policy, will at all times be determined by our own assessment of our national interest.”

“This has been true in the past and will be true in future regarding our relations with big powers as well as with our neighbours in West Asia, notably Iran, Iraq, Palestine and the Gulf countries,” he underlined while alluding to India’s difference with the US over intervention in Iraq which he had himself described as “a big mistake.”

Manmohan Singh also underlined India’s commitment to deepening relations with Iran which is viewed with suspicion by the US. “With regard to Iran, our advice has been in favour of moderation and we would like that the issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme which have emerged should be resolved through dialogue and discussions in the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said.

Even as he sought to intertwine the nuclear deal with India’s energy security and its emergence as a major global player, Manmohan Singh recalled on an emotive note how he “had to study in the dim light of a kerosene oil lamp” when he was living in a village (Gah) “with no drinking water supply, no electricity, no hospital, no roads and nothing that we today associate with modern living.”

“This nation gave me the opportunity to ensure that such would not be the life of our children in the foreseeable future,” he said.

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