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'No one can influence policy as long as I am PM'
August 18, 2006 01:05 IST
Amidst mounting pressure from the Opposition and the Left allies to explain the government's position regarding the Indo-US nuclear deal, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Thursday addressed the Rajya Sabha and answered the concerns raised by various parties, including the scientific community.
Following is the text of his speech:
At the outset, I would like to convey my gratitude to all the Hon'ble Members who have participated in this debate. I am grateful for this opportunity to clarify some of the issues arising from the discussion. I will do so in a non partisan spirit and I have every reason to believe that after I have finished that I will be able to carry the whole House with me. Our Government has never shied away from a full discussion in Parliament on this important issue. On three previous occasions on July 29, 2005, February 27, 2006 and March 7, 2006, I had made detailed statements and discussed this important subject in this august House. Once again, several issues have been raised during the current discussions and I wish to take this opportunity to respond to them. I also intend to cover developments since my last suo motu statement of March 7 this year.
Two types of comments have been made during the discussion in the House. The first set of issues pertains to the basic orientation of our foreign policy. Some Hon'ble Members have observed that by engaging in discussions with, and allegedly acquiescing in the demands made by the United States, we have compromised the independent nature of our foreign policy.
The second set of issues pertain to deviations from the July 18 Joint Statement and the March 2 Separation Plan. Many of the points raised by the Hon'ble Members have also been aired outside Parliament, notably also by some senior members of the scientific establishment. Overall, a listing of the important concerns include the following: that the India-US Nuclear initiative and more particularly the content of the proposed legislation in the US Congress, could undermine the autonomy of our decision-making; limit the options or compromise the integrity of our strategic programme; and adversely affect the future of our scientific research and development. To sum up, this would suggest that India's strategic nuclear autonomy is being compromised and India is allowing itself to be pressurized into accepting new and unacceptable conditions that are deviations from the commitments made by me to Parliament in July 2005 and in February and March this year.
I recognize that many of these concerns are borne out of genuine conviction that nothing should be done that would undermine long standing policies that have a bearing on India's vital national security interests. I fully share and subscribe to these sentiments. I would like to assure the Hon'ble Members that negotiations with the US regarding the civilian nuclear deal have not led to any change in the basic orientation of our policies, or affected our independent judgment of issues of national interest. Last year during my visit to the US, I addressed the National Press Club in the full glare of the media. A question was put to me regarding what I thought about the US intervention in Iraq. In the full public glare of the media I said that it was a mistake. I said the same to President Bush when he visited India. I said India does not find favour with regime change.
The thrust of our foreign policy remains the promotion of our national interest. We are unswerving in our commitment to an independent foreign policy. We do recognize the complexities present in an increasingly inter-dependent and multi-polar world. While we recognize that the United States is a pre-eminent power and good relations with the U.S. are in our national interest, this has not in any way clouded our judgment. There are many areas of agreement with the United States, but at the same time there are a number of areas in which we have differences and we have not shied away from making these known to the US, as also expressing them in public. Currently, we are engaged not only with the US but other global powers like Russia, China, the EU, UK, France and Japan. We are also focusing on ASEAN, as well as countries in West Asia, Africa and Latin America. More importantly, we are devoting proportionately larger time and effort in building relations with countries in our immediate neighbourhood like Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Pakistan. Our relations with all these countries are determined by the dictates of our enlightened national interest and we have not allowed any other country, including the United States, to influence our polices. This will not change as long as I am Prime Minister.
I would, hence, again reiterate in view of the apprehensions expressed, that the proposed US legislation on nuclear cooperation with India will not be allowed to become an instrument to compromise India's sovereignty. Our foreign policy is determined solely by our national interests. No legislation enacted in a foreign country can take away from us that sovereign right. Thus there is no question of India being bound by a law passed by a foreign legislature. Our sole guiding principle in regard to our foreign policy, whether it is on Iran or any other country, will be dictated entirely by our national interest.
Let me now turn to some of the concerns that have been expressed on the second set of issues regarding possible deviations from assurances given by me in this august House on the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement and the March 2, 2006 Separation Plan. I would like to state categorically that there have neither been nor will there be any compromises on this score and the Government will not allow such compromises to occur in the future.
Hon'ble Members will recall that during President Bush's visit to India in March this year, agreement was reached between India and the United States on a Separation Plan in implementation of the India-United States Joint Statement of July 18, 2005. This Separation Plan had identified the nuclear facilities that India was willing to offer, in a phased manner, for IAEA safeguards, contingent on reciprocal actions taken by the United States. For its part, the United States Administration was required to approach the US Congress for amending its laws and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group for adapting its Guidelines to enable full civilian nuclear cooperation between India and the international community.
The US Administration had thereafter approached the US Congress to amend certain provisions of the United States Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which currently prohibit civil nuclear cooperation with India. The US House of Representatives International Relations Committee passed a Bill on the subject on 27th June 2006. The House of Representatives passed the Bill as approved by its International Relations Committee on July 27.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed its version of the Bill on June 29, 2006. The US Senate is now expected to vote on this version of the Bill some time in September. We have concerns over both the House and Senate versions of the Bill. Since the two Bills are somewhat different in content, according to US practice they will need to be reconciled to produce a single piece of legislation. After adoption by both the House and the Senate, this would become law when the US President accords his approval. The final shape of the legislation would, therefore, be apparent only when the House and the Senate complete the second stage of assent/adoption.
Meanwhile, the US Government has approached the Nuclear Suppliers' Group to adapt its guidelines to enable full civil nuclear cooperation between India and the International community. In March this year, the NSG at its plenary meeting in Brazil held a preliminary discussion on this issue. The matter will be further discussed by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group later this year. On our part, we have separately raised this issue with several countries and urged them to lift the existing restrictions on nuclear supplies to India. I myself have raised this issue with the Heads of State or Government of Russia, France, UK, Japan, Germany, Brazil, Norway, Iceland and Cyprus, among others.
In view of the concerns voiced by the Hon'ble Members, I shall try to address each of these concerns in some detail. I shall, however, begin by affirming that our approach is guided by the understandings contained in the July 2005 Joint Statement and the March 2006 Separation Plan. What we can agree with the United States to enable nuclear cooperation must be strictly within these parameters.
The key provisions to which references have been made in Parliament and outside are the following:
(i) Full Civil Nuclear Cooperation: The central imperative in our discussions with the United State on Civil Nuclear Cooperation is to ensure the complete and irreversible removal of existing restrictions imposed on India through iniquitous restrictive trading regimes over the years. We seek the removal of restrictions on all aspects of cooperation and technology transfers pertaining to civil nuclear energy ‑ ranging from nuclear fuel, nuclear reactors, to re-processing spent fuel, i.e. all aspects of a complete nuclear fuel cycle. This will be the surest guarantee of India's acceptance as a full and equal partner of the international nuclear community, even while preserving the integrity of our three stage nuclear programme and protecting the autonomy of our scientific research and development. We will not agree to any dilution that would prevent us from securing the benefits of full civil nuclear cooperation as amplified above.
(ii) Principle of Reciprocity: I had earlier assured the House that reciprocity is the key to the implementation of our understanding contained in the July 2005 Statement. I stand by that commitment. When we put forward the Separation Plan, we again made it clear to the United States that India could not be expected to take on obligations such as placing its nuclear facilities under safeguards in anticipation of future lifting of restrictions. India and the United States have held one round of discussions on a proposed bilateral cooperation agreement. India and the IAEA have held technical discussions regarding an India-specific Safeguards agreement. Further discussions are required on both these documents. While these parallel efforts are underway, our position is that we will accept only IAEA safeguards on the nuclear facilities, in a phased manner, and as identified for that purpose in the Separation Plan only when all nuclear restrictions on India have been lifted. On July 29 last year, I had stated that before voluntarily placing our civil nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, we will ensure that all restrictions on India have been lifted. There has been no shift in our position on this point.
(iii) Certification: The draft Senate Bill requires the US President to make an annual report to the Congress that includes certification that India is in full compliance of its non‑proliferation and other commitments. We have made it clear to the United States our opposition to these provisions, even if they are projected as non‑binding on India, as being contrary to the letter and spirit of the July Statement. We have told the US Administration that the effect of such certification will be to diminish a permanent waiver authority into an annual one. We have also indicated that this would introduce an element of uncertainty regarding future cooperation and is, not acceptable to us.
(iv) India as a State possessing Advanced Nuclear Technology: Hon'ble Members may recall that the July 18 Statement, had acknowledged that India should be regarded as a State with advanced nuclear technology enjoying the same advantages and benefits as other states with advanced nuclear technology, such as the US. The July Statement did not refer to India as a Nuclear Weapons State because that has a particular connotation in the NPT but it explicitly acknowledged the existence of India's military nuclear facilities. It also meant that India would not attract full‑scope safeguards such as those applied to Non‑Nuclear Weapon States that are signatories to the NPT and there would be no curbs on continuation of India's nuclear weapon related activities. In these important respects, India would be very much on par with the five Nuclear Weapon States who are signatories to the NPT. Similarly, the Separation Plan provided for an India‑specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA with assurances of uninterrupted supply of fuel to reactors together with India's right to take corrective measures in the event fuel supplies are interrupted. We have made clear to the US that India's strategic programme is totally outside the purview of the July Statement, and we oppose any legislative provisions that Mandate scrutiny of either our nuclear weapons programme or our unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.
(v) Safeguards Agreement and Fuel Assurances: In this respect too, it is worth emphasizing that the March 2006 Separation Plan provides for an India‑Specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, with assurances of uninterrupted supply of fuel to reactors that would be placed under IAEA safeguards together with India's right to take corrective measures in the event fuel supplies are interrupted. We, of course, have the sovereign right to take all appropriate measures to fully safeguard our interests. An important assurance is the commitment of support for India's right to build up strategic reserves of nuclear fuel over the lifetime of India's reactors. We have initiated technical discussions at the expert level with the IAEA on an India‑Specific Safeguards Agreement. Both the Bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the United States and the India-Specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA would be only within the parameters of the July Statement and the March Separation Plan. There is no question of India signing either a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA or an Additional Protocol of a type concluded by Non‑Nuclear Weapons States who have signed the NPT. We will not accept any verification measures regarding our safeguarded nuclear facilities beyond those contained in an India-Specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Therefore there is no question of allowing American inspectors to roam around our nuclear facilities.
(vi) Integrity and reliability of our strategic programme � autonomy of decision-making and future scientific research and development: In my statement of March 7, 2006, I had assured Parliament that the Separation Plan would not adversely affect our strategic programme. I reiterate that commitment today. The Separation Plan has been so designed as to ensure adequacy of fissile material and other inputs for our strategic programme, based on our current and assessed future needs. The integrity of our 3‑Stage nuclear programme will not be affected. The autonomy of our Research and Development activity, including development of our fast breeder reactors and the thorium programme, in the nuclear field will remain unaffected. We will not accept interference by other countries vis-�-vis the development of our strategic programme. We will not allow external scrutiny of our strategic programme in any manner, much less allow it to be a condition for future nuclear cooperation between India and the international community.
(vii) Moratorium on production of fissile material: Our position on this matter is unambiguous. We are not willing to accept a moratorium on the production of fissile material. We are only committed to negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, a commitment given by the previous government. India is willing to join only a non‑discriminatory, multilaterally negotiated and internationally verifiable FMCT, as and when it is concluded in the Conference on Disarmament, again provided our security interests are fully addressed.
(viii) Non‑discriminatory Global Nuclear Disarmament: Our commitment towards non-discriminatory global nuclear disarmament remains unwavering, in line with the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan. There is no dilution on this count. We do not accept proposals put forward from time to time for regional non‑proliferation or regional disarmament. Pending global nuclear disarmament, there is no question of India joining the NPT as a non‑nuclear weapon state, or accepting full‑scope safeguards as a requirement for nuclear supplies to India, now or in the future.
(ix) Cessation of Future Cooperation: There is provision in the proposed US law that were India to detonate a nuclear explosive device, the US will have the right to cease further cooperation. Our position on this is unambiguous. The US has been intimated that reference to nuclear detonation in the India-US Bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreement as a condition for future cooperation is not acceptable to us. We are not prepared to go beyond a unilateral voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing as indicated in the July Statement. The same is true of other intrusive non‑proliferation benchmarks that are mentioned in the proposed US legislation. India's possession and development of nuclear weapons is an integral part of our national security. This will remain so.
Hon'ble Members will appreciate the fact that an international negotiation on nuclear energy cooperation particularly when it involves dismantling restrictive regimes that have lasted for over three decades is a complex and sensitive exercise. What we are attempting today is to put in place new international arrangements that would overturn three decades of iniquitous restrictions. It is inevitable, therefore, that there would be some contradictory pulls and pressures. This does not mean that India will succumb to pressures or accept conditions that are contrary to its national interests.
I had personally spoken to President Bush in St. Petersburg last month on this issue, and conveyed to him that the proposed US legislation must conform strictly to the parameters of the July 18, 2005 Statement and the March 2, 2006 Separation Plan. This alone would be an acceptable basis for nuclear cooperation between India and the United States. India cannot, and is not prepared to, take on additional commitments outside this agreed framework or allow any extraneous issues to be introduced. I have received an assurance from the US President that it was not his intention to shift goalposts, and that the parameters of the scope of cooperation would be those contained in the July 2005 Joint Statement and the March 2006 Separation Plan. A White House Statement of Administration Policy of July 26, 2006 recognizes some, though not all, of India's concerns, and conveyed that the Administration has voiced them with the Congress.
I can assure you that there is no ambiguity in our position in so far as it has been conveyed to the US. The US is aware of our position that the only way forward is strict adherence to July Statement and March Separation Plan. I am hopeful that the bilateral India‑US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement when concluded will take into account the issues raised here. However, I must be honest and frank that I cannot predict with certainty the final form of the US legislation or the outcome of this process with the NSG, which consists of 45 countries with divergent views. We are hopeful that this will lead in a direction wherein our interests are fully protected and that there is a complete lifting of restrictions on India that have existed for three decades. Such an outcome if it materializes will contribute to our long‑term energy security by enabling a rapid increase in nuclear power. It would lead to the dismantling of the technology denial regimes that have hampered our development particularly in hi‑tech sectors. I will have wide consultations including with the members of the Atomic Energy Commission, the nuclear and scientific communities and others to develop a broad based national consensus on this important matter. I wish to inform members of the House that I have invited members of the Atomic Energy Commission on the 26th August for a meeting. That same day I have also invited the group of distinguished scientists who have expressed concerns to meet me.
Finally, I would only like to state that in keeping with our commitments to Parliament and the nation, we will not accept any conditions that go beyond the parameters of the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement and the March 2, 2006 Separation Plan, agreed to between India and the United States. If in their final form the US legislation or the adapted NSG Guidelines impose extraneous conditions on India, the Government will draw the necessary conclusions, consistent with the commitments I have made to Parliament.