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Our nuclear plans remain untouched

OPINION

Manmohan Singh  |  New Delhi 

An elaborate multi-layered consultation process has been included with regard to any future events that may be cited as a reason by either party to seek cessation of cooperation or termination of the (123) agreement. Both parties have agreed to take a number of factors into account in their consultations so that the scope for precipitate or unilateral action is reduced.
Cessation of cooperation can be sought by the US only if it is prepared to take the extreme step of termination of the agreement. India's right to take "corrective measures" will be maintained even after the termination of the agreement.
In the case of termination and cessation of cooperation by either party, each has the right to seek the return of nuclear material and equipment supplied. However, before the right of return is exercised the agreement commits the parties to consult and to take into account specific factors such as national security, ongoing contracts and projects, compensation at market value, physical protection and environmental issues. The agreement stipulates that the two parties recognise that exercising the right of return will have profound implications and consequences for their relations.
Our primary objective is to ensure the uninterrupted operation of our nuclear reactors, in the context of the detailed fuel supply assurances provided in the separation plan. The agreement specifically states that in regard to fuel supply assurances and India's right to take "corrective measures", there will be no derogation of India's rights, including the right to take "corrective measures" to ensure the uninterrupted operation of its reactors. This reflects the balance of obligations consistent with the understandings of the July statement and the March separation plan.
Among the significant and innovative features of this agreement is a specific mention of the right to run foreign-supplied reactors "without interruption" and to take "corrective measures" in the event of fuel supply disruption.
The agreement does not in any way affect India's right to undertake future nuclear tests, if it is necessary in India's national interest. A decision to undertake a future nuclear test would be our sovereign decision, one that rests solely with the government. There is nothing in the agreement that would tie the hands of a future government or legally constrain its options to shoreup India's security and defence needs.
In the unlikely event of cessation of cooperation, our reprocessing rights are upfront and are permanent in nature. Advanced research and development programmes and intellectual property rights protection are fully safeguarded.
India's three-stage nuclear power programme holds immense promise for the future.We must, in the meantime, explore and exploit every possible source of energy.
On the basis of the Indo-US bilateral agreement and the finalisation of an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which is being taken up shortly, the Nuclear Suppliers' Group is expected to adapt its guidelines to enable international commerce with India in civil nuclear energy and all dual-use technologies associated with it. This would be the beginning of the end of the technology-denial regimes against India that have been in existence for over three decades.
Apart from its direct impact on our nuclear energy programme, this agreement will have major spin-offs for the development of our industries, both public and private. High technology trade with the US and other technologically advanced countries will expand rapidly.
Questions have been raised about the government's commitment to an independent foreign policy. India is too large and too important an country to have the independence of its foreign policy taken away by any power.
Today, India stands on the world stage as an influential and respected member of the international community. There is independence in our thought and independence in our actions.
Excerpts from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement on the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement in Parliament on August 13, 2007

First Published: Sun, August 19 2007. 00:00 IST
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