A confident Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday categorically stated that India would go to the International Atomic Energy Agency, for the safeguards agreement on the civil nuclear agreement with the United States, very soon. He added that he does not foresee elections being held before time.
The prime minister was speaking to journalists on board the special aircraft carrying him to Sapporo, Hokkaido, the northernmost island in Japan, for the G8 Summit.
He did not specify any date as to when exactly India would go to Vienna, the IAEA headquarters, but said, "We have been assured that once we take the decision to go to the IAEA, the process will move very fast. "
"As soon as we decide to go to the IAEA, the matter will be in the court of its Board of Governors and we would certainly hope that the Board can take a quick decision. We have an agreed text which has been agreed to by the secretariat of the IAEA, so I would expect that the process would not take too long," he added.
The prime minister said that he would meet US President George W Bush on July 9 and apprise him of India's commitment to go through with the civil nuclear deal, despite domestic political uncertainty.
"I will tell him what I have always told him--that we remain committed to the civil nuclear cooperation agreement. It has been my effort and it will be my effort to push the civil nuclear cooperation agreement and our government stands committed to that. As for the precise date, I would not like to say it when we are abroad, but it will be very soon."
Replying to a question on China's stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal, Dr Singh said that he had discussed the matter with Chinese leaders on quite a few occasions, and although "I cannot say that I have a firm assurance, I have a strong feeling that when the matter comes before the relevant international fora, China will not be a problem."
Besides meeting with the leaders of the United States and China, Dr Singh will also have discussions with other leaders to garner global support as India goes to the IAEA and later to the Nuclear Suppliers' Group.
During his bilateral discussions with the leaders of Japan, China, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, United Kingdom, France, he said that apart from the nuclear deal with the US, the issues of climate change, the instability in the global financial markets, oil prices and inflation will take prominence.
"There are three major issues which are bothering the world: one is the issue of increasing volatility and instability in the world's financial markets. There is a danger that this financial instability may spill over into the real economies and superimpose itself. Second is the steep rise in the prices of petroleum products and food grains. And the third is the issue of climate change and global warming. These are the issues which the G8 and Outreach 5 nations will discuss," Dr Singh said.
Elaborating on the government's stand-off with the Left parties, the prime minister expressed regret. "I respect the sentiment of our colleagues. The Left are patriots; there are unfortunately differences in our perceptions. I sincerely hope we can find some way in which we can resolve these differences in a manner that the nuclear deal can go through. The Left has some concerns over independent India's foreign policy, but I have assured Parliament that India is too big a country to bow to any other nation. Indian foreign policy will be determined only in reference to what is in India's interest," he said.
The prime minister said that the nuclear deal is in India's interest as it recognizes the arrival of India on the global scene. The agreement is in the nation's long-term interest of energy security and access to dual use technologies, said Dr Singh.
"We have no obligation on us to do any thing other than in response to our national interest. And as far as the technical aspects of the deal are concerned, I think there is A P J Abdul Kalam, a former President who is a scholar, a great scientist who has been actively involved in the development of India's nuclear deterrent -- he has spoken and I do hope that we can work towards a broad based consensus that this deal is good for India. If there are any worries about India's foreign policy's strategic autonomy, I am willing to give all assurances to all concerned," he said.
"Our BJP colleagues came to me and they said 'well, we have only one worry about the safety and effectiveness of our strategic programme and I went up to Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee -- Mr Advani and Mr Brajesh Mishra were there -- and gave them full assurance. To anyone who has a genuine concern, I am willing to go to him and use all the efforts that I am capable of, in convincing our friends that what we are doing is in India's national interest."
While replying to a query, the prime minister said, "Living with tension is part of the prime minister's job in all countries, including India, but I am not under any unusual tension,"
Responding to Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani's statement that the government should seek a trust vote, the prime minister said: "We will cross that bridge when we come to it. We are not afraid of facing the Parliament. We will abide by all the Parliamentary norms that should apply to the great democracy that India is. Advani need not give any advice to us."