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N-deal separation plan not a dividing issue: PM
February 28, 2006 19:24 IST
Last Updated: February 28, 2006 21:16 IST
Contending that the separation plan under the Indo-US nuclear deal is not a "dividing" issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said an agreement on this would be President George W Bush's "great contribution" to ending India's isolation from the world nuclear order. The prime minister, in an interview to Charlie Rose telecast on the Public Broadcast System, hoped that the agreement on the nuclear pact could be finalised before the American leader's arrival in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Asked if he considered separation of India's civilian and military nuclear facilities under the nuclear deal as a major dividing factor between India and the US, Singh said, "I would not call it a dividing issue. It is an important issue.
"I recognise the United States has to sell this deal to the Congress. But we also have a Congress. And I have always told our Parliament -- as I mentioned to the President -- this deal is not about India's strategic programme, what is in discussion is our civilian nuclear programme."
"We have agreed we will have a credible separation between our strategic programme and the civilian programme. Whatever we have committed in our July 18 statement, in letter and spirit, we will fulfill our obligations," he said.
Asked if there was a 90 per cent chance of hope of an agreement, Singh replied, "I certainly hope that," adding that an agreement would be a "great contribution" of Bush "to ending India's isolation from the world nuclear order."
The prime minister said he had mentioned to Bush the last time that people of India, particularly the scientists and technologists "rightly or wrongly nurse the grievance" against the US, "...that the United States has joined other countries to erect a system of controls which deny our country access to global dual use technology, to prevent us from leapfrogging in the race for social and economic development."
"Our Parliament is also sensitive about this issue. I have promised our Parliament that I will do nothing which will hurt India's strategic programme and our programme is a modest programme," he said.
Singh emphasised that although India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it abides by most of the guidelines that are in operation like the export of technologies. "India is a unique case and you need to accept to incorporate India into the world nuclear order," he said. Singh said he has had extensive dialogue with Bush on energy issue and in different settings like the UN and the meeting of the Group of Eight at Gleneagles, and at one point the US President had told Singh that if oil prices went up that would not only hurt a country like India but also the US. "So we must work together to help get India its nuclear security by increasing the availability of nuclear power," Bush is said to have told Singh.
Asked if the civilian nuclear energy deal was the centrepiece of India-US ties, the Prime Minister replied, "In a way, yes. Ours is a multi-dimensional relationship. Energy is a major constraint on our development. At present 70 per cent of India's oil and oil products are imported from abroad. There is uncertainty of supply, uncertainty about prices and that hurts India's development."
"We have large reserves of coal but extensive use of coal -- unless we use clean coal technology -- has environmental hazards of global warming and. If we had nuclear energy that adds to our maneuverability in ensuring energy security," The prime minister said.
Singh also stressed on the track record of India in the realm of export controls. "We have an impeccable record. We have never been the source of unauthorised proliferation of hesitative technologies even when the provocation was there. We have a very tight system of export control," he said. Singh said, "In fact before I went to the United States I got Parliament to pass the latest legislation which puts our export controls on the same footing as most of the developed countries when it comes to export of sensitive technologies."
"We are a nuclear weapons state but we are unique in the sense that we still believe that the foundation of the world ultimately lies in moving towards universal nuclear disarmament. That's a long distance away and India would like to be part of the nuclear world order accepting all the responsibilities that go with being a responsible nuclear power and at the same time enlarging our options with regard to energy security of our country," the prime minister said.
Towards the end of the interview Singh was asked to comment on how it would be if Bush's visit materialised not only in the civilian nuclear initiative but also Washington formally throwing its weight behind India's candidature for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
"It will be a great gift and nice. We can claim to the world that we are now in a different new era of Indo-American relationship of trust, of working together, partnership, strengthened both by commitment to common values and also by the identity of interests," Singh replied.
On the India-US ties, the prime minister expressed the hope that the two countries can write a new chapter in the history of the bilateral relationship by working together on a partnership that is based on principles and pragmatism.
He referred his own address to the US Congress when he spoke of partnerships based on principles and those on pragmatism and "fortunately" for India and the US these two considerations have come together to bring about a multi-faceted relationship which is in the interests of both.
"I hope it will be transformational," Singh remarked pointing to a "…new India, which realises its destiny in the framework of its open society, in the framework of an open economy, respecting all fundamental human freedoms and great respect for pluralism including value systems."
"I think that's what unites India and the US and I do hope that working together, our two countries can write a new chapter in the history of our relationship," Singh said.
India, he said, "has, of course, the aspiration of getting out of poverty and ignorance that still afflicts millions of people. But I do believe we have something to offer to the rest of the world including the United States. I sincerely believe what happens to India has lessons, morals for the future evolution of humankind in the 21st century."
Asked what those lessons could be, Singh said, "Of working together. Instead of talking about the clash of civilisations what we need is a dialogue of civilisations. We need respect for diversity, tolerance, respect for diverse faiths. And that is what we are doing in our country. And if we succeed doing all this in the framework of a democratic polity, I believe a large part of humanity will draw appropriate lessons."
When asked why President Bush is so keen on the US-India relationship, Singh said, "I have been deeply impressed by his commitment in the cause of democracy. He sincerely believes that democracy is good for everybody that democracy is good for world peace and democracies don't go to war.
"India is a functioning democracy and despite its extreme poverty, India has stayed the course. It has remained a full functioning democracy."
"But our relationship is based on values and interests. The values are values of democracy, the values of pluralism, the value of tolerance, of differences. And the interests are that our two countries, if they work together, is a win-win game. India's growth rate will be accelerated and America will also benefit," the prime minister said.
In the course of the interview, Singh also said that India cherished its relationship with Iran that has a civilisation link.
Besides, Singh said India's destiny as a great global power is an idea whose time has come.
"India's destiny is what I described in 1991 quoting Victor Hugo, the emergence of India as a great global power is an idea whose time has come. I will only modify it by what Jawaharlal Nehru said. He said the service of India means the service of those teeming millions steeped in poverty, ignorance and disease."
"To see that in my lifetime we can soften these harsh conditions of extreme poverty and unleash a new economic and social revolution will bring out latent creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit of our people," the prime minister said.
Asked for his legacy in the system, Singh answered it in his characteristic modest way. "I am a small person to be put in this big chair. I do my duty of whatever job is allotted to me. For me since 1991 I have been part of this process of ushering in the reform movement. Of course no single person can take credit for that and I mentioned the role of Rajiv Gandhi."
"I think whatever I have done I hope I have earned a footnote in India's long and tortuous history," the prime minister said.
India is a country "blessed by God" in the enormous entrepreneurial spirits that in the past were kept suppressed by the command and control system. "That started off well with good intentions, it served us well in the beginning," the prime minister observed going on to make the point that after a period of time it was a damper on economic growth.
Singh remarked that in 1991 the Information Technology industry in India was no where and that it was an insignificant entity.
"When I became Finance Minister in 1991, I discovered wealth tax rates in India was so atrocious that nobody could accumulate money in an honest way. I removed that tax and the result was Indian companies for the first time acquired an incentive to grow big, to grow rich. And you see the results of it in Bangalore, you see it happening elsewhere," Singh said.
The prime minister noted that demographics was going to help India to grow at a faster rate pointing to the Chinese insistence on the one child norm is resulting in the
proportion of older non-working population is going to rise sharply in that country.
"Our age profile is much younger. The proportion of total population to working population will rise for another decade. If we can find jobs for this population, that is going to be a source of wealth. The savings rate will go up, India's investment rate will go up and I think that is a plus point," Singh observed.
The prime minister spoke of the special bonds in the India-US relationship -- the Indian Americans and the Americans of Indian origin stressing that there is hardly a middle class family in India who doesn't have a son, daughter, a sister-in-law, a brother or a brother-in-law in the United States. "That is a very powerful bond," Singh remarked.
"I should like to express our profound gratitude to the Americans of Indian origin for the way they have conducted themselves and the way they have worked hard to carve out a niche for themselves. I think this has also given America a new idea about what India is capable of," the prime minister said.