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PM on nuclear deal: We have to move on
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October 12, 2007 11:01 IST
Last Updated: October 12, 2007 12:26 IST

Rejecting speculation of early polls, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] on Friday exuded confidence that his government will last the full term and suggested if the India-United States civil nuclear deal does not go through, it will not be the end of life.

He also hoped that "reason and common sense" will ultimately prevail on the issue of the nuclear deal.

"Elections are still far away. The government has still one-and-a-half years to complete its term. I hope and expect we will stay the course," Dr Singh said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

He was answering a question on the speculation of mid-term polls in the wake of the stand-off with the Left allies on the nuclear deal.

Asked if he had staked too much of his personal prestige on the nuclear deal and would it make him a much weaker prime minister with less credibility if it does not go through, he said, "We are not a one issue government. We have made changes in various areas. But in life one has to take certain disappointments and move on to the next."

Dr Singh defended the nuclear agreement as "an honourable deal that is good for India and good for the world."

Referring to the differences over the deal, he said, "We are in the realm of politics" where there are differences of perception.

"We are trying to reconcile the divergent points of view. I have not given up hope that reason and common sense will ultimately will win the day," Singh said.

Asked whether his interview to a newspaper where he had dared the Left over the nuclear deal had precipitated the situation, Singh said, "I don't think I have overstepped... I was responding to a public statement by the four Left parties. I am conscious of my responsibilities, what I should say and what I should not say."

"No, I was appealing to their good sense," he said when asked whether he was trying to provoke the Left.

In a veiled reference to the ongoing controversy over the nuclear deal, Dr Singh said, "In politics, we must survive short term battles to address long term concerns."

Asked whether he would step down if the Left did not agree to the nuclear deal, a smiling prime minister quipped, "It is a suggestion for action."

In what appeared to be a reference to the imbroglio over the nuclear deal, Singh said, "We cannot assume that the country and the economy will move forward on their own, while we dissipate our energies in meaningless controversies."

He said if the entire time and energy was spent "battling the ghosts of the past", how could work be done efficiently, as he noted that there was a "vast unfinished agenda of development and reform".

Recalling the pressure the government faced in 1991 as it tried to bring about economic reforms, Dr Singh said, "If we had dithered, if we had yielded to our critics, if we were not firm in our resolve, if we had been overwhelmed by self-doubt, we would have taken the country into a whirlpool of despair."

"On the contrary, those reforms unveiled a new era of enterprise and creativity for India. Enveloped by crisis, besieged by political uncertainty, surrounded by anxiety, we imagined an India that can be," he said.

The prime minister said that to realise the "India of our dreams, we must show courage in taking actions that the people expect us to take in their long term and best interests".

In what sounded like a word of advice to the detractors of the nuclear deal, he said, "I am fully aware of the dictum that in politics, one must survive short term battles to attain long term objectives. However, we need to work with one eye on long term objectives while meeting day-to-day challenges."

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