Sandeep Dikshit

They will allow India to build strategic fuel reserves and ensure uninterrupted operation

Pacts represent balance of rights and obligations

All agreements consistent with national interest

NEW DELHI: The Central government has said the civil nuclear agreements signed with the U.S. and France include fuel supply assurances and the right to reprocess the spent nuclear material that would be imported in future.

These agreements and the one with Russia later this year would allow India to build its strategic fuel reserves to ensure uninterrupted operation of civil nuclear rectors under the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, according to a suo motu statement External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday. The Minister was unable to read the statement because of the din in the House.

“When the enabling bilateral cooperation agreements are brought into force they will provide the legal framework to negotiate and finalise commercial agreements to source nuclear fuel for our strategic fuel reserve as well as other nuclear equipment and technologies covering the nuclear fuel cycle.” India, in turn, will honour “all commitments” and hoped that other countries “will similarly” discharge their commitments and obligations.

“These agreements represent a careful, balance of rights and obligations. Cooperation with our international partners will be carried out on the basis of the terms and provision of these agreements,” the Minister said. India will also be setting up a new reprocessing facility and taking other steps to operationalise the agreements. “In achieving this result, the government has ensured that they only relate to cooperation in civilian nuclear energy leaving the strategic programme and indigenous research, he added.

The statement on the civil nuclear energy initiative (it was not placed in the Rajya Sabha due to the death of a sitting Member) was the first on the issue in Parliament in nearly three months. In between, the International Atomic Energy Agency approved the India-specific safeguards agreement, the Nuclear Suppliers Group allowed its members to enter into full civil nuclear cooperation with India, and France and the U.S. signed bilateral pacts on nuclear cooperation with India.

The government warded off criticism that the pact would compromise the country’s independent foreign policy. On the contrary, India’s acceptance into the nuclear commerce mainstream “does the opposite” by increasing the country’s foreign policy options. The NSG decision actually enhances the country’s choices to engage as an equal partner in the international community. The government also maintained that all the agreements were consistent with national interest and with the Prime Minister’s assurance given to Parliament.

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