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India has sovereign right to conduct N-tests: Mulford
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Indo-US Nuclear Tango

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September 10, 2008 19:46 IST

India has the sovereign right to conduct nuclear tests and that issue was never debated, the United States said on Wednesday.

"If you ask me can India conduct a (nuclear) test, my answer is India has had and will always have the sovereign right to conduct a test. That has never been debated," US Ambassador to India David C Mulford told Karan Thapar on 'India Tonight' programme of CNBC-TV18.

India has got a "clean" waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group to participate in global nuclear trade, he said.

He said it was not a "correct interpretation" to say that there would be a periodic review of the NSG waiver.

"But it is very important and understandable that a group like this (NSG), when an exceptional decision is being made, then there will be a continuation of exchange of views between parties," Mulford said.

Asked whether India has given a commitment not to conduct tests, the ambassador said, "It does not have to."

On the time-table for wrapping up the Indo-US nuclear deal, he said the 123 agreement will be placed before the US Congress for final nod "today, tomorrow (or in a) few hours" as it was "virtually ready" to be put up before it.

However, Mulford said the US Congress does business according to its own timetable. "The administration is in touch with senior Congressmen," he added.

Noting that there are reasons to be "hopeful" about getting a clearance from the Congress soon, the US diplomat said many US lawmakers would like to see that the agreement is cleared during the time of Bush administration itself.

"They (Congressmen) will be willing to be flexible on the timing (of passing the 123 agreement) and all," Mulford said.

He noted that the statement by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which reaffirmed India's commitment to no-first-use of nuclear weapons, was "extremely helpful" in gaining support for creating a momentum for the process for an India waiver to come to a conclusion.

Seeking to play down the leakage of the correspondence between the US Congress and the State Department, Mulford said he was "mystified" by the attention the issue got as it is a "very very simple" matter.

"It was not a secret, confidential document... nothing in that document is different from what was negotiated," he said.

The ambassador said the "landmark" 123 agreement will be a "major accomplishment" of the Bush adminstration.

He said US President George W Bush [Images] was actively involved in the realisation of the 123 agreement. "Bush has pushed forward the agreement all the way long through various negotiating points," Mulford said.

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