NSG waiver has to fit PM’s word to parliament: Pranab

September 4th, 2008 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) As the Nuclear Suppliers Group begins its two-day meeting in Vienna Thursday, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said India cannot agree to anything in the NSG waiver which goes beyond Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s “commitment to parliament”. Mukherjee also underlined that the waiver will be guided by the India-US 123 bilateral civil nuclear agreement, India’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the draft of exemption circulated by the US to the 45 NSG member-countries for discussion at their conclave in Vienna.

“We have already stated what is our commitment. We cannot go beyond our commitment to parliament, commitment made by the prime minister and commitment made by ourselves,” Mukherjee told senior journalist Kalyani Shankar in an interview which will be aired by All India Radio Thursday night.

“Therefore, whatever we have committed to it, it will have to be achieved within that,” Mukherjee underlined.

He, however, declined to speculate on the outcome of the NSG meeting that is likely to decide by Friday whether or not to bring India back into global nuclear trade by giving it a clean waiver.

“We have tried to meet our commitment made by our prime minister, made by me, in all the documents which we have entered into in connection with the civil nuclear cooperation,” he said while alluding to the 123 agreement between India and the US, India’s specific safeguards agreement with IAEA and also the revised text of waiver in the NSG.

Mukherjee’s remarks reinforce “red lines” drawn by India in the proposed NSG waiver on issues that are critical to India entering into full civilian nuclear cooperation without compromising the country’s strategic deterrence.

The minister’s assurance, however, does not square up with “secret” correspondence, made public Wednesday, by the Bush administration to the Congress that the US will terminate fuel supplies to India immediately if New Delhi conducted a nuclear test.

The disclosure, coming as it did on the eve of the NSG meet, rekindled hostility by opposition parties in India who seized on the correspondence to accuse the Manmohan Singh government of betraying parliament on the crucial issue of testing.

Mukherjee struck a cautious note when asked whether he was confident about the US Congress clearing the 123 agreement in view of time constraints in the run-up to the November presidential elections. “That will depend on the calendar of the US Congress,” was all he would say.

The minister also stressed that regardless of the fate of the India-US nuclear deal the strategic ties between the two countries will continue to “develop steadily”.

“Our relationship is not uni-dimensional or uni-directional. We have relationship on many other area. It is a part of it,” he said.

“Improvement of Indo-US relationship has a strong bipartisan support. Therefore, I do feel that whoever occupies the office of president after the election, our relationship between India and USA will steadily develop,” he added.

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