India must end ‘nuclear apartheid’, will not sign CTBT: PM(Lead)

June 12th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) India will have to move forward with its nuclear deal with the US to break its “nuclear apartheid”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday while declaring that the country will not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that bars further tests. Addressing new recruits of the Indian Foreign Service at a function here, the prime minister also stressed that the nuclear deal India had signed with the US protected its “national interests”.

Acknowledging the “difficulties” the India-US nuclear deal had run into because of domestic political opposition, he argued that India would have to go ahead with it to break the “nuclear apartheid” it had been facing for decades.

“Our domestic politics has prevented us from going ahead, I still continue to hope that we will make progress in the months that lie ahead. But it is very important for us to move forward to end this nuclear apartheid that the world has sought to impose on India,” the prime minister said.

Allaying fears expressed in some quarters that the deal would prevent India from conducting future nuclear tests and thus hurt its strategic interests, Manmohan Singh made it clear that New Delhi would not sign the CTBT even it was ratified by other countries.

“Despite the fact that we are not a signatory to the NPT (nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty), and we have also said that if the CTBT came into being we will not sign it, there is no pressure from the US on India to sign the NPT or any other international arrangement of that sort to enter into nuclear cooperation for civil energy,” Manmohan Singh said.

Though it has not signed the CTBT, India has put a moratorium on further tests since the nuclear tests at Pokhran in May 1998. The Left parties and opposition parties have warned that if India signs the nuclear deal with the US, it would be prevented from conducting further tests.

The prime minister’s remarks on the nuclear deal that has run into stiff opposition from the Left parties appears to be another attempt to clear some of the apprehensions.

“For the first time we got the US to appreciate that India is a nuclear weapons state, that India has the right to develop nuclear power to protect its strategic interests, and that it is a decision that must be made by the people of India not subject to any international supervision or any international interference,” Manmohan Singh said.

While he outlined the broad parameters of India’s foreign policy for the new IFS officers, he also took the opportunity to try and clarify some of the misgivings some sections in the country have over the nuclear deal.

“So as I see it, this nuclear agreement that we have signed with the US, it has run into some difficulties, but it protects our national interest, it protects our capacity to use the nuclear power to protect our strategic interests,” Manmohan Singh said.

“At the same time it opens us new opportunities for civilian cooperation and without that, I think, the trade in dual technologies-sensitive advanced technologies cannot become a reality.”

Expressing the hope that the differences over the deal could be sorted out in the coming days, he stressed that it would not only open up civilian nuclear cooperation between India and the US but also with a number of other countries that include Russia and France.

He said: “This agreement, if it materialises, if it sees the light of day, it will open up new possibilities of cooperation, not only with the US but all other nuclear powers like Russia, France, who are very keen that once we have this deal through, that India should become eligible for civil nuclear cooperation. ”

Manmohan Singh argued that India had for the first time got the US to appreciate that it is a nuclear weapons state, “that India has the right to develop nuclear power to protect its strategic interests, and that it is a decision that must be made by the people of India not subject to any international supervision or any international interference”.

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