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'We can always walk out of N-deal'
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | August 16, 2006 23:54 IST
Seeking to allay the apprehensions of senior Indian scientists, a senior Congress leader has said India can always walk out of the Indo-US nuclear deal if it's not in conformity with the framework agreed upon by both countries.
"You can always walk out of the deal if it's not in conformity," the senior leader, with decades of experience in governance, said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said that India, while accepting strict safeguards regarding civilian nuclear power projects, has not compromised on its strategic capabilities.
Insisting that all international agreements have mutual benefits, the leader merely said, "India is a sovereign country," when specifically asked whether India will backtrack from the deal.
However, he strongly refuted the idea of having a resolution in Parliament conveying a "sense of the House" against Indian apprehensions. He said that any such resolution would have far reaching consequences.
The Left parties have demanded a discussion in Parliament on the Indo-US nuclear deal and are insisting a statement from the government reflecting the 'sense of the House'.
In a rare move, the Communist Party of India-Marxist has joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party, demanding a resolution in Parliament.
Senior scientist Dr A Gopalakrishnan, in his column for rediff.com, has said that it is time Parliament woke up to the need for this deal to be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny and approval in Indian national interest.
But on Wednesday, the Congress leader forcefully turned down the demand, and said Parliament should not be pitted against the US Congress on the nuclear issue.
The senior Congress leader added that one should read debates of the Constituent Assembly on whether international treaties should be ratified by Indian Parliament or not.
He said that many parliaments have provisions for international treaties to be ratified; even Nepal has such provision but the founding fathers of Indian Constitution decided to leave this issue in the hands of the Executive.
He said that if such an idea of resolution is accepted by Parliament, then foreign policy will be subject to the moods of Parliament of the day.'
He said in 1994 the then Indian government had joined the World Trade Organisation, critics and Bharatiya Janata Party wanted the decision to be ratified by Parliament. But the same BJP, which criticised India for joining the WTO in 1994, was desperate in later years to get Congress's approval on the patents act.
He said, it is absurd to demand ratification of any foreign policy matter from Parliament.
He said since the Indian Constitution does not bind the Executive to seek ratification of any foreign policy decision from Parliament the current Parliament needs "Constituent powers" to change the Constitution of India.
He said, "We don't have the mandate to change the Indian Constitution." He said the the Congress and allies within the government have only around 220 members.
Interestingly, the veteran leader also argued that in 1971, when a few decisions made by Indira Gandhi were challenged, the Supreme Court gave a judgment in what is now well-known as the Golak Nath's case.
It said: Parliament is considered to have no power to take away or curtail any of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.
The leader said, "Indira Gandhi went for a snap poll, came back to power and brought a Bill seeking to amend Article 368 of the Constitution to provide for amending the Constitution."
He said the United Progressive Alliance government cannot tamper with the Constitution. The UPA government "believes that this is just a first stage of the nuclear deal. There are still too many ifs and buts."
The matter right now is between the US Congress and the US President and India will have to only observe whether the US president is being empowered enough to implement the July 18 agreement.
He said that unlike the one-time waiver given to President Bill Clinton, under the Brown Amendment, to supply arms to Pakistan, the US administration needs to change the law to empower the President George W Bush to implement the July 18 agreement.
He added that the landmark July 18 agreement is nothing but an 'expression of intentions'.
He also drew attention to the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that reciprocal actions are necessary in Indo-US nuclear deal. Meaning that India goes ahead with negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency only when the bilateral deal (the 123 Agreement - the term for a peaceful nuclear cooperation pact with a foreign country under the conditions outlined in Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act) is in place.
He said international relations are for mutual benefit and not out of compassion, adding that India will take care of its national interest.
When asked about the future of the nuclear deal and the guaranteed stand of the US, he said Americans have a habit of saying that they do everything "in supreme national interest".
He also said in international agreements, there are no free lunches. And added that many Indian scientists are opposing the deal because they suffered a lot during the sanctions regime.
He also acknowledged that while for India, the deal was important in the light of its energy requirements, the US agreed to the deal due to geopolitical reasons. He also discounted the linking of the issue with India's policy towards Iran and other diplomatic issues.
"India never supported the US war against Vietnam. India does not think Saddam Hussein was a rogue leader nor does it think Iran is a rogue state," he said.