Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday clarified that the civil nuclear agreement with the U.S. would not affect India’s autonomy of decision making on foreign affairs or strategic programme in any manner.

“India had always followed an independent foreign policy. Under no circumstances would this position undergo a change, the least of all in the context of the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. India has always regarded its strategic autonomy in these matters as sacrosanct,” said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office here.

The statement came after National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan had a meeting with Samajwadi Party leaders Ram Gopal Yadav and Amar Singh. The SP leaders had sought clarifications on the nuclear deal before committing the party’s support to the United Progressive Alliance government.

The SP’s backing is crucial for the Congress-led coalition as the Left parties have made it clear that they will withdraw support the moment the government proceeds further to “operationalise” the nuclear deal by going to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors. The SP is all set to make its stand public after a meeting of the United National Progressive Alliance, of which it is a constituent, here on Thursday.

In reply to Mr. Amar Singh’s query whether the nuclear deal would impinge on New Delhi’s relations with Tehran, the PMO clarified that the ties with Iran were “time-honoured and civilisational in nature and no outside influence or pressure could force India to deviate from this path.”

Referring to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, the statement said it “epitomises the nature and importance of the relationship, something that was strongly reinforced during the visit of [Iranian] President Ahmadinejad to Delhi in April. The NSA has just returned after a very productive meeting with the Iranian leadership, and [he] also had a meeting with President Ahmadinejad, at which apart from economic issues like the IPI pipeline, related matters were discussed.”

The statement asserted: “India is not under any pressure, nor can it be pressurised to follow a course of action that is not dictated by our enlightened self-interest.”

Another issue raised by the SP leaders was whether the deal would undermine India’s nuclear sovereignty.

The statement said the Prime Minister had reiterated on many occasions that the deal would not in any way impinge on “our strategic programme.” For, this was an agreement for civil nuclear cooperation and the purpose was to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation between the parties and nuclear reactors concerned.

The PMO said it would cater to the development of a strategic reservoir of nuclear fuel to guard against disruption of supplies over the lifetime of reactors, and for advanced research and development in nuclear sciences.

“The 123 Agreement with the U.S. contains a specific mention that the Agreement would not affect unsafeguarded nuclear activities, i.e. activities involving our strategic programme which are not under safeguards.”

There was nothing in the Agreement that placed an embargo on India’s right to carry out a nuclear test if it thought that this was necessary in the country’s supreme national interest, said a statement issued after National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan met Samajwadi Party leaders here.

More In: Today's Paper