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'I hope I am wrong and the government is right'

If you think that 65 per cent is too much, what should have been the ideal number of reactors that should go under safeguards?

What I was saying is that my offer was that in addition to those already under safeguards, ie, two in Tarapur, two in Rajasthan and two which are coming up with Russian participation in Koodankulam, in addition to that two more existing reactors could have been given and all the future reactors could have been put in the civilian list.

That would have been sizable. After all what has America accepted now? That India will decide in the future which is civilian and which is strategic. My offer was the same. So what Americans have insisted upon and this government has agreed to is that, not as Burns kept on saying, 'credible, transparent and defensible.'

Credible to whom? To the US. Transparent to whom? To the US. Defensible for whom? Defensible enough for US administration which is going to Congress. Is that credible and defensible form our point of view or from the point of view of our strategic requirement?

This game of percentages here can play one way or the other. The fact is that if the government has taken a decision that we have enough or we will have enough, whatever they want to say for all future threat scenarios, then fine, don't bother about my concerns. I have voiced my concerns. I have no political agenda so I don't want to pursue it. It will be for the people to decide in future if the government had acted correctly or not.

But don't you agree that this nuclear deal is just one part of the big picture of Indo-US relations? In spite of your reservations, which we understand, on the balance India will remain in an advantageous situation. Give us the bigger picture.

Well, let us do it this way. This deal has yet to go through US Congress. It is yet to be accepted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. You have yet to negotiate India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. You have to negotiate the additional protocols. Is this deal going to go through?

Can you answer that?

I can't answer. If it is not going to go through for some reason or other, then you have already offered something that you cannot take back. In future negotiations you cannot take it back. So the starting point would be this compromise that you will face with in any future agreement. Just wait and see.

When you thought of the separation plant what was on your mind?

We were not talking about the separation of this or that. Three-four years ago, the idea behind our move was to obtain end of sanctions in the US in regards to dual use technology and high-technology, concerning both the space program and our nuclear program.. They didn't accept it. Instead they [the US] came out with what they call Next Steps in Strategic Partnership which is a very modest agreement. It was supposed to be in phases. At the end of the last phase it was not certain that they would supply us reactors.

It was a gradual movement. Now, this government has gone and negotiated a much wider agreement but what have you given in return for that? I again say that I don't have a political agenda. I hope I am not right. I hope I am wrong and the government is right.

Let us presume that US Congress passes it, the US changes it laws and everything else is done, then, what will be the long term impact of this agreement on India?

Certainly, it will give a big boost to India's civilian nuclear field. Of course, you will have to still negotiate the commercial aspects of the negotiations. How much money you are going to put in. Already people are saying that American and French reactors are very costly compared to Russian. We don't know what amount is required. And we will have to wait and see how fast our three-stage research program, which is ultimately going to use thorium, is going to go. Fifteen or 20 years or more, we know it will take a long time. Even nuclear reactors that will be set up with help of the US, Russian, France or Canada will take more than 10 years. It's not for tomorrow, it's for the day after tomorrow.  

In the picture: The Koodankulam nuclear power plant coming up with Russian assistance in Tamil Nadu

Also See: Dr Singh in Washington

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