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Excerpts of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's intervention in the Lok Sabha during discussion on India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation

New Delhi
December 18, 2006

…Another important stage in this process has now been reached with the passage of legislation by the US Congress, with substantial bi-partisan support, in pursuance of the undertakings of the United States in the July Joint Statement that it would seek to adjust US laws and policies to achieve full civil nuclear cooperation with India. This Act is necessary for the United States to resume civil nuclear cooperation with India and also an important step leading to the lifting of international restrictions currently applicable to India.

We appreciate the efforts made by the US Administration and the bipartisan support in the US Congress, which has led to the passage of this legislation. This law has several positive features, which take into account our concerns. However, there are areas, which continue to be a cause for concern, and we will need to discuss them with the US Administration before the bilateral cooperation agreement can be finalized. The House can rest assured that in these negotiations, the commitments and assurances I gave to Parliament on August 17 2006 will constitute our guidelines.

The passage of the legislation enables the US Administration to follow up on another commitment made by the US in the July 18 Joint Statement viz, approaching its international partners, particularly in the NSG, to lift restrictions to allow full civil nuclear cooperation with India. We will seek to ensure that the NSG takes action to permit full civil nuclear cooperation with India in terms acceptable to us.

India is interested in long term, stable and predictable cooperation in civil nuclear energy with the United States and other members of the international community. Such a partnership with the United States can be facilitated if the legislation- its scope, content and implementation - were to strengthen the hands of the Administration to fulfill all the commitments agreed to by the US in the July 18 Joint Statement and the March 2 Separation Plan. On the other hand, this objective can be hindered by extraneous issues that were not part of the understandings in the July 18 Joint Statement and the March 2 Separation Plan. India will find it difficult to and cannot accept any such conditions beyond those already agreed in the understandings with the US.

As I have mentioned earlier also, our strategic programme was outside the discussions that led to the July 18 Joint Statement. There was no discussion on details of our strategic programme, which culminated in the March 2 understandings. Our strategic programme will not be subject to external scrutiny or interference of any kind. So Shri Advaniji need not worry about India losing its Nuclear Swaraj. Safeguarding the autonomy of the strategic programme is a solemn duty of this Government. I repeat, nothing will be done that will compromise, dilute or cast a shadow on India's full autonomy in the management of its security and national interests. I repeat, no legislation of a foreign country can take away from us our sovereign right to conduct foreign relations, be it with Iran, or with other countries, solely in accordance with our national interests.

The US for its part has assured us that the legislation as passed by Congress will enable it to fulfill all its commitments vis-à-vis the July 18 Joint Statement and the March 2 Separation Plan. Clarifications are necessary, because there are areas which cause us concern, and will be sought from the US on how this will be done.

International negotiations are a complex process. We recognize that the outcomes are not entirely predictable nor always under our control but compromises, if any, cannot violate basic principles. I believe that any calculation of risks and opportunities will need to be done in a reasoned and transparent manner but evidently we cannot agree to anything that is not consistent with our vital national interests, including protecting the autonomy of our strategic programme, maintaining the integrity of the three-stage nuclear power programme and safeguarding indigenous R&D, including our Fast Breeder Programme. This will be the underlying approach when we negotiate the bilateral 123 Agreement, which will form the basis of our civil nuclear cooperation.

Sir, looking back, though the July 18 Joint Statement and the March 2 Separation Plan involved complex issues, I believe, we were able to achieve outcomes that in no way compromised India's interests. In fact there was wide public support when the issues were fully explained. This has been made possible using innovative and creative approaches to these complex issues. There is I believe a large measure of support within the country in favour of breaking out of our isolation, and in joining the international mainstream in a manner that secures for India full civil nuclear cooperation with the international community while protecting our strategic programme and maintaining the integrity of our three stage programme and indigenous R&D. This is the objective set out as far as the bilateral nuclear agreement is concerned.

Parliament has my solemn assurance that while the government will make every effort so that the vision of the July Statement becomes a reality, this objective will not be achieved at the cost of our vital national interests. Clearly, difficult negotiations lie ahead. Our broad approach and expectations of these negotiations are a matter of public record. My August 17th 2006 Statement, dwelt at length on how India perceives the implementation of the July Statement and the March Separation Plan. I stand by the commitments that I have made to Parliament.