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What Dr Singh told Bush on N-deal
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August 17, 2007 20:21 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] has made it clear to President George W Bush [Images] during negotiations on the Indo-US nuclear deal that India could not agree to a 'bilateral' Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). He also said that it was not in India's interest for Iran to become a nuclear weapons power though it had the right to have nuclear energy as an NPT member.

"I told Bush that I can't be a cheer leader or be part of a war-mongering group. The nuclear dispute with Iran should be resolved through peaceful processes," he told a magazine in an interview.

The prime minister spoke to the magazine two months ago while he was returning from the G-8 Summit. The magazine said its understanding was that excerpts of the interview could be published once the 123 Agreement was reached.

Singh said the US President told him in July, 2005: "Don't expect me to help you to build bombs. I told him I didn't expect the US to do that because with our previous achievements, we didn't need anyone's help."

The prime minister said, "I made it clear during the negotiations that we can't agree to a bilateral NPT or CTBT. We have a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing and we will exercise restraint".

"We wanted to be transparent because of the deep suspicions about the US among our political, intellectual and scientific class. In Parliament,  we drew red lines on the deal that we wouldn't cross. I even told President Bush that just as he has a Congress, I have one too. My commitments to Parliament acted as a disciplining force without which we would have been vulnerable while negotiating with the US later," Singh said.

Singh, who has been under attack from the Opposition and the Left allies over the nuclear cooperation agreement, contended that the deal was a "logical fallout" of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership that the National Democratic Alliance government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had begun with the US.

"It was an outcome of that process. While we had successfully made nuclear weapons, on the power front there were too many shifting targets. We had set a target of 10,000 MW of nuclear power almost 35 years ago and now we have only around 3,700 MW. The deal would help us meet our targets for nuclear power," he told the magazine.

About the Bharatiya Janata Party, he said, "It requires a big leap in approach and the attitude of the BJP is disappointing. They didn't even believe I would last as the prime minister and some leaders even did havans that I should die on a certain day. But I have faith in a higher force. I believe it was my destiny to be the prime minister. I have the courage of conviction."

On nuclear scientists, he said, "I have a great respect for them. Although they don't have a veto on the deal, I felt we needed them to be on board. They had faced the bad side of the US �  the isolation and the suspicion �  and I had to take them along. "

The prime minister said he felt dreadful about a world full of nuclear weapons. "Now there are even dangers of a dirty bomb and non-state actors using it. The world could end up with a catastrophe, he said.

Describing Bush as a "very easy person" to deal with, Singh said, "He is very nice to me and of all the US Presidents, he is the friendliest towards India."

Noting that the US had become the "sole superpower" almost 15 years ago, he said, "But all these years, no Indian government had the courage to change our policy towards the US.

"It was felt during the foreign policy review that Indo-US relations were the key in a globalised world and we needed to give them the highest importance," the prime minister said.

"I believe in being friends to all countries and we had to open new pathways to do that. We need to change the cycle. The guiding principle is to resolve disputes without creating fear and uncertainty. On Pakistan and China, we are on track. In Indo-US relations, the nuclear issue was an irritant and the deal works towards removing that. As regards our international status, in major forums now China and India are mentioned in the same breath. That is something deeply satisfying.

But there is no scope for complacency. We can't take our place in the world for granted. We need to work harder, harder, harder, the prime minister said.

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