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Centre hints at taking steps to counter Hyde Act
July 19, 2008 13:28 IST
The government is "open to the idea" of amending the domestic law to counter the US Hyde Act which has been the major cause of opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal from the BJP and Left parties, highly placed official sources said.
Ahead of the trust vote in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the sources said the government is confident of winning it and pursuing its "unfinished agenda" of reforms in insurance,
banking and pension sectors after discussions with its new ally, the Samajwadi Party.
Defending the controversial deal as one in the best interests of India, the sources maintained that India's obligations were spelt out in the bilateral 123 agreement with
the United States. The Hyde Act is purely a US domestic law which cannot override the bilateral agreement, they said.
All the same, the government is "open to the idea" of amending the Atomic Energy Act to counter the Hyde Act which critics see as a legislation that puts shackles on India's right to conduct nuclear tests.
The BJP has favoured an Indian legislation to tackle the Hyde Act, but sources said that the Opposition party had not spelt out the changes it wants in the Atomic Energy Act. "We are willing to look at all options provided they are feasible," the sources said.
Meanwhile, the government appears satisfied with the response from the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) who were briefed by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon in Vienna.
However, it is not minimising the difficulties that may lie ahead and rejects suggestions that once the Safeguards Agreement is approved by the IAEA, the nuclear deal is on "auto pilot".
"We cannot take NSG for granted. It works on the basis of consensus," the sources said.
Regretting the "hurry" with which the Left had withdrawn support to the government over the deal, the sources said that even after the approval by the NSG and the US
Congress, India had the option of not operationalising the deal if it's final shape did not not satisfy Parliament.
After the entire process of approval, India would have to file a declaration about the deal before the IAEA. Only after that would the deal be operationalised, they pointed out.
Asked if the government would go ahead with the deal even if it lost the trust vote, the sources said,"We are not not going to lose the vote. Rest is hypothetical."
The sources emphasised that the UPA government was not "a one-issue government" but the nuclear deal had occupied "so much space" at a time when inflation needed to be tackled as a top priority.
"We will pick up the threads after the 22nd," they said referring to the trust vote.
The government, they emphasised, had a good record but also "an unfinished agenda". Inflation had been kept under 4 per cent during the first four years but had risen due to circumstances beyond its control.
The approach to tackling inflation was to ensure that the economy grew at 7.5 to 8 per cent without causing hardships to the poor sections of the people, the sources said, adding that controlling inflation would be the government's top priority.
Controlling inflation would take sometime but the Indian economy was "by and large" well managed. The food economy in particular had been handled very well unlike the other countries, they said.
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