PM meets Vajpayee, briefs about n-deal


New Delhi : Keen to develop broad political consensus on the India-US civil nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday briefed former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other BJP leaders on details of the 123 pact that was finalised with the US last week.

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National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Atomic Energy Commission chairperson Anil Kakodkar – three principal negotiators from the Indian side who were crucial in clinching the 123 pact with the US in Washington last week – told BJP leaders about finer aspects of the draft 123 pact and sought the BJP's support for it.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was also present at the meeting.

They assured Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders that all India's concerns were reflected and addressed in the 123 pact, official sources said.

"The BJP will come out with a structured response only after the deal comes in the public domain and all the contours of the deal are known to us," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told IANS after the meeting.

Vajpayee raised some issues relating to the understanding on key issues of reprocessing and nuclear testing and stressed that India should never accept any clause that will compromise its strategic deterrence and its indigenous three-stage programme, party sources said.

Senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra accompanied Vajpayee to the prime minister's 7 Race Course Road residence for the meeting.

Former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani could not attend the meeting as he is away in Singapore.

Early this month, Vajpayee asked the government to take the opposition into confidence over the nuclear deal and said no bilateral agreement with the US should be concluded on this issue till parliament has had a chance to discuss it thoroughly.

The Cabinet Committee on Security and the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs at a joint meeting Wednesday approved the 123 pact, expected to open the doors of global civil nuclear commerce after a gap of three decades.

The government began the process of selling the 123 deal Wednesday by organising a meeting between Manmohan Singh and key Indian negotiators with the Left leaders Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja.

The Left parties have said that they will make a detailed comment only after the full text of 30-page draft agreement is shared with them.

"It is their claim that all the assurances given by the prime minister have been met in the 123 pact. Let them first disclose contents of the 123 pact. We will take a stand only then," Communist Party of India leader D. Raja told IANS.

The US has granted India the right to reprocess US-origin spent fuel and lifetime uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuel even in the case of India conducting a nuclear deal as part of the 123 deal, according to sources close to the government.

A statement on the draft pact will be made on the first working day of parliament. Intensive debate is likely to follow the presentation of the pact in parliament.