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India to keep option open on future N-test: Pranab
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December 19, 2006 19:46 IST
Last Updated: December 19, 2006 23:08 IST

Insisting that the US legislation on the nuclear issue cannot put a bar on production of fissile material by India, the government declared that New Delhi will keep its option open on conducting further atomic tests if the situation warrants.

Rejecting the opposition's charge in the Rajya Sabha that the country's interest were being 'mortgaged,' External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said clarifications will be sought from the US on certain 'extraneous and prescriptive' provisions in the American law before reaching a separate bilateral agreement to operationalise the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

"I see no reason why we should have any doubts or suspicion," he said as he responded point-by-point to concerns raised by members during a six-hour debate on the issue.

Allaying apprehensions of various parties, including the Left allies and the opposition, he asserted: "This is a civilian nuclear agreement and not an arms control measure."

During his 45-minute statement in presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images], Mukherjee said: "We are not accepting any additional commitments. We are sticking to voluntary unilateral moratorium that we have declared."

He said New Delhi had made it clear that it will not accept any treaty bound commitment to cap the strategic programme.

"We want to keep the option (of conducting further nuclear tests) open if the situation demands. If the international situation requires, we may have to conduct nuclear test. We will not like to foreclose that option," he said.

On reference to fissile material control in the US legislation that was signed as law by President George W Bush [Images] on Monday, the external affairs minister said there was no obligation on part of India in this regard.

Declaring that New Delhi will be guided in this regard by the understanding of July 18, 2005 between the two countries, Mukherjee said India was for multilateral fissile material control, one that is 'non-discriminatory and universal and verifiable.'

The reference to it in the legislation was a reflection of views of the US Congress. On the perpetuity of fuel supplies under the agreement, he said the US had assured that it will fulfil its commitments of July 18. If the US, for certain reasons, refuses to supply fuel, nothing will prevent India from going to any Nuclear Suppliers Group country to seek it, he said.

New Delhi does not want recurrence of Tarapur experience when the US refused to supply fuel, he said. Emphasising that New Delhi was seeking full civil nuclear cooperation, Mukherjee said there is nothing in the US legislation that bars India from reprocessing or enriching imported uranium.

This will be a key issue of discussion with the US under the 123 agreement. With regard to end-use monitoring of the spent nuclear fuel, he said India has its own procedures in place and had a good reputation in this regard. He asserted that nothing will be done to harm national security interests in this regard as well.

On concerns regarding mention of joint research and development in the US legislation, the external affairs minister allayed fears that it would lead to intrusive scrutiny of India's atomic programme. The reference to it in the bill only talks about exploring the possibility in this regard, he said, adding that India has no obligation to accept it.

Mukherjee said the legislation recognises the ground reality that India has a nuclear weapon programme. He said the India-specific safeguards agreement will be worked out with the IAEA. Under it only the IAEA and nobody else, not even the US, will have any right to supervise.

Maintaining that India was for non-proliferation universally, Mukherjee, however, said the country has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as it is 'flawed and discriminatory.'

Elaborating on the discrimination, the external affairs minister said while it gives nuclear weapon states right to stockpile, non-nuclear weapon states do not have such a right. On sequence of safeguards, he said India will ensure that all restrictions on it are lifted before the 123 agreement is concluded very shortly.

Declaring that India will conduct its foreign policy on its own terms and in its interests, he referred to Iran and said the civilizational links with it will continue. With regard to the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, he said it has not been given up but the price was being renegotiated at the behest of Tehran.

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