Special Correspondent

“Our understanding of Hyde Act is different”

Pranab’s statement is vague on IAEA negotiations

It evokes sharp reactions from Left parties

NEW DELHI: The Central government made it clear on Monday that it had not given up on the civilian nuclear deal with the United States. It, however, told Parliament that its view of the Hyde Act was different from that of the U.S. government.

Still hopeful of the deal getting the requisite “political consensus within the country” to fructify the agreement, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee countered Washington’s impression that the Hyde Act would prevail over the 123 Agreement. “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 U.S. government. India’s rights and obligations on civilian nuclear cooperation with the U.S. arise only from the 123 Agreement that we have agreed upon.”

Rice’s statement

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said: “We will support nothing with India in the NSG [Nuclear Suppliers’ Group] that is in contradiction to the Hyde Act. It will have to be completely consistent with the obligations of the Hyde Act. We’ll have to be consistent with the Hyde Act or I don’t believe we can count on Congress to make the next step.”

New Delhi’s formulation on the deal came in three paragraphs, as part of a lengthy statement by Mr. Mukherjee in Parliament on “foreign policy-related developments” when both Houses were in recess. It immediately drew sharp reactions from the Left parties, which are against the “operationalisation” of the deal.

The statement is vague whether the talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were successful. “We are engaged in negotiations with the IAEA to arrive at an agreed text of an India-specific safeguards agreement.” It merely notes that “the conclusion of such an agreement will enable the NSG to amend its guidelines for civilian nuclear cooperation commerce in favour of India.”

While suggesting that the government was not too pre-occupied with the U.S., Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that once the NSG guidelines were changed, “it will open the door to civilian nuclear cooperation with countries such as Russia, the U.S., France and the U.K.” The necessary enabling bilateral agreements for such trade had been discussed with them and are in various stages of finalisation, he said.

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