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Pranab: no compromise on independent foreign policy

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Sent in first to defend the government during the trust vote, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday flayed Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani’s “inquest” on the performance of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), while urging the Left parties not to strengthen saffron forces by joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Likening the clearances from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Suppliers Group to a “passport and visa,” the Minister sought support to acquire these. “Then we will decide if we should travel and with whom,” he said; pointing out that India would not be able to access nuclear commerce — even with friends like Russia and France — without the nuclear deal with the United States.

Admitting to prescriptive provisions in the Hyde Act that were unacceptable to India, he said: “We can never compromise on our independent foreign policy” and added that there was no mention of it in the 123 Agreement.

About the refusal to share the draft of the India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the Left parties, his contention was that the government could not disclose it because the IAEA bound itself to secrecy.

“That is why the UPA chairperson nominated only Cabinet Ministers from various parties to the UPA-Left Coordination Committee. We shared the substantive provisions of the frozen text with the Left parties and put it up on the website the moment it was circulated among the IAEA Board of Governors.”

Maintaining that the government approached the IAEA only after the Left parties announced withdrawal of support, the Minister dwelt on the benefits of nuclear energy vis-À-vis other options.

He cited the example of France to show how that country met 79 per cent of its energy requirements through nuclear fuel despite stiff opposition at first.

Earlier, challenging Mr. Advani’s claim that the BJP had never destabilised governments, Mr. Mukherjee wanted to know if the Opposition leader had forgotten his party’s role in bringing down the V.P. Singh government.

Saying that the Opposition leader should get his facts right, the Minister referred to Mr. Advani’s comment that the former Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Morarji Desai, were against India signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). “Mr. Nehru died in 1964. The NPT came into force in 1970. How can a dead man express his opinion?”

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