Government working for ‘political consensus’ on n-deal: Pranab


New Delhi : In a last-ditch effort to persuade Left parties to back the India-US nuclear deal, the government Monday said it was trying to build “broad political consensus” on the deal which will open doors of civil nuclear commerce also with other countries like Russia and France.

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“We will continue to seek broad political consensus within the country to take forward our engagement on this issue with other countries,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha.

With an eye on winning the support of the Left parties, who are virulently opposed to the deal which they see it as symbol of the burgeoning India-US strategic ties, Mukherjee said the deal will end “unfair technology denial regimes” and open the doors of global civil nuclear commerce with key nuclear supplier countries, including the US, Britain, Russia and France.

Alluding to India’s negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for an agreed text of an India-specific safeguards agreement, Mukherjee indicated the government was ready to go ahead with the deal after it resolves the political deadlock with the Left on the issue.

“The conclusion of such an agreement will enable the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to amend its guidelines for civil nuclear commerce in favour of India,” he said.

“This will open the door to civil nuclear cooperation with various countries, including Russia, USA, France, UK, etc., with many of whom the necessary enabling bilateral agreements for such trade have been discussed and are in various stages of finalization,” he said.

“This development will signify, finally, an end to the unfair technology denial regimes and sanctions that India has been faced with for over three decades,” he stressed.

The government has nearly finalized the draft IAEA pact, which is expected to ensure uninterrupted fuel supply for India’s safeguarded civilian reactors and its right to take corrective action if the nuclear fuel supply is interrupted.

The Left parties have to approve the draft pact before the government can go ahead with the next stage in completing the deal: seeking a change in NSG guidelines.

Mukherjee also sought to allay anxieties of the Left parties and other critics of the deal, including the chief opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the Hyde Act, the US legislation that provides a waiver from the US Atomic Energy Act to allow the US to engage in nuclear commerce with India.

Critics have maintained that the 123 India-US bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement will be ultimately governed by the Hyde Act, which they contend aims at undermining India’s sovereignty and strategic deterrence.

“Let me take this opportunity to reiterate that the Hyde Act is an enabling provision that is between the executive and the legislative organs of the US government,” he said.

“India’s rights and obligations regarding civil nuclear cooperation with the US arise only from the bilateral 123 Agreement that we have agreed upon with the US,” he said.

India and the US will review the progress of the nuclear deal when US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Richard Boucher will meet Indian officials over the next two days here.

In a wide-ranging statement touching on many foreign policy issues, the minister underlined the government’s commitment to pursuing an independent foreign policy and developing relations with key global players, including Russia and China, which the Left and opposition parties have questioned time and again.

“To sum up, I would emphasize that the government will continue its efforts to develop close political, social and economic relations with the countries of our region and with all the major powers of the world, so as to add to our ability to pursue our independent foreign policy as dictated by our national interest.”

In his opening lines, Mukherjee sought to stress the central imperative governing India’s foreign policy: “promoting an external environment that enables India’s accelerated development efforts and increases our strategic space.”