No rethink on the nuclear deal, says BJP; Henry Kissinger meets Advani
NEW DELHI: It would not be possible for the Bharatiya Janata Party to accept the 123 agreement on the India-United States nuclear deal in its present form. This was conveyed to the U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford when he called on BJP president Rajnath Singh on Monday afternoon.
The meeting lasted over an hour and the deal was discussed in some detail, especially the points related to strategic sovereignty, independent foreign policy and the BJP’s demand that the deal should have been discussed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee before a debate in Parliament.
Earlier Mr. Mulford had similar meetings with the Leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani and the former National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, over the last one week. Simultaneously, the former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, visiting India, met Mr. Advani at his residence for over 30 minutes to discuss with him the finer points of the deal.
After the meeting with Mr. Mulford, Mr. Singh told The Hindu: “I told him that it is not possible for us [the BJP] to accept the 123 agreement as it is. We have already stated our concerns related to strategic sovereignty, that is the freedom to conduct further nuclear tests if our security situation so demands, independence of foreign policy, and the need for Parliament to conduct an informed debate on the deal after a Joint Parliamentary Committee is set up to look at it in detail.”
Mr. Singh also said that there was no re-think in the party on the deal. It was not about to enter into any agreement with the Congress to support it in Parliament. “We are in the Opposition. We will oppose it if a vote is taken.”
Asked why the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, announced in 1998 a “voluntary moratorium” on further testing and offered a legally binding agreement on this, Mr. Singh said there was a big difference between a “voluntary” decision and one that was arrived at as a result of an agreement with another country. The “voluntary” moratorium would not have come in the way of further testing if the needs of the security situation demanded a new test.
Later, a BJP spokesperson said that Mr. Mulford was meeting the party’s senior leaders to understand the concerns of the party and its position on the nuclear deal.
Separately, senior party leader Venkaiah Naidu said: “We are not blindly anti-American. But the Centre did not show any transparency on the deal; it was not discussed properly with parties.”
Paulson meets PM
PTI reports from New Delhi:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday in the backdrop of U.S. stating that it remained “committed” to the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation.
Mr. Paulson discussed a range of economic and strategic issues with Dr. Singh.
Besides the nuclear deal, the two countries are trying to bridge the gap between the developed and developing nations in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organisation.