Eight former Bangalore-based ambassadors have asked the government to present "a full picture" to the public of where the country is heading vis-a-vis the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement by setting aside its "policy of reticence."
"Given the sharp divergence of opinion on this landmark agreement and the strong passion that it has generated in the country, the very least that the Indian government could do, before finalising the terms of implementing this agreement, is to present a full picture to the Indian public of where we are heading," they said.
The eight who have issued a joint statement are: C B Muthamma, former ambassador to Sweden, N Krishnan, former permanent representative to the United Nations, A P Venkateswaran, former foreign secretary, A Madhavan, former ambassador to Germany, P L Sinai, former ambassador to Austria and representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, P A Nazareth, former ambassador to Egypt, C V Ranganathan, former ambassador to France and M A Khaleeli, former ambassador to Iran.
They expressed the view that even admitting that security considerations may have to be kept in mind,"the present ambiguity and paucity of information is not acceptable in a democratic country".
"In such a situation, bits and pieces of news and speculative comments appearing in the media, many of them from American sources, who always seem to be better briefed and know more, help only to create more confusion and engender more suspicion that India is somehow being manoeuvred into surrendering its autonomy in decision-making in such vital matters," they said.
The former ambassadors said not only the strategic community and the scientific community, but also concerned citizens have the right to know and should have access to full and correct information.
"The government of India should put aside its present policy of reticence and share with the people of India all that they are legitimately entitled to know," the statement said.
According to them, "The fear shared by many is that the price India will be asked to pay to ensure US Congressional ratification will be too high, not only in the specific area of New Delhi's future nuclear programme, but even on broader issues of nuclear proliferation, and perhaps also on other foreign policy aspects."
"An added anxiety is the not so very encouraging record of the US in adhering to agreements; modifications and withdrawals from bilateral/multilateral accords driven by shifts and reversals in US doctrine and policy are not unknown," they said.
The former ambassadors said Indian spokespersons were at pains to suggest that there would be simultaneous movement forward, but it became obvious pretty soon that India would first have to take all the steps towards compliance before the US Congress could take it up for ratification.
"It has become even clearer now after two rounds of technical talks that the Indian plan of separation of facilities, complex by itself, must meet US approval before further progress can be made," they said.
"A comprehensive statement by the government had been promised, but two sessions of Parliament have passed and there has been none. No standing committee of Parliament has had an opportunity to consider the matter," they said.