Vol. 5 Num 418 Sat. July 30, 2005  

Manmohan Singh Says
Nuclear programme not harmed by US deal

Indian Premier Manmohan Singh told parliament Friday that a deal for access to civilian nuclear technology reached with the United States earlier this month would not limit the country's nuclear weapons program.

The basis of the agreement with the United States "was that India is a responsible nuclear power with an impeccable record on nuclear non-proliferation," Singh said.

"Our strategic assets are a source of national security and will continue to be so and remain outside the scope of our discussions with any external interlocutors," he said.

India first tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and then conducted a second round of tests in May 1998 which were matched by rival Pakistan. The tests brought economic sanctions from several countries, including the United States.

Most of the sanctions were lifted on India and Pakistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks in return for support in the "war on terror".

Singh statement's was his first to parliament since returning from a three-day state visit to the United States earlier this month where he reached an agreement with US President George W. Bush to increase cooperation in civilian nuclear technology to meet India's growing energy demands.

India is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bars export of technology that could aid a nuclear program of any country that has not signed the treaty.

India has been denied access to large nuclear reactors and fuel for decades as a result of its refusal to sign the nuclear treaty.

The India-US civilian nuclear energy accord had evoked criticism in India with Singh's Communist allies and opposition groups accusing him of giving away "flexibility" in deciding nuclear weapons strategy.

Chief among their arguments was that Bush had "merely made promises" with the US Congress able to scuttle the deal but Singh had made "long-term and specific commitments" with serious security implications.

In the July accord, Singh had agreed to separate India's civilian and military nuclear programmes, open its facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency scrutiny and work to prevent nuclear proliferation.

On Friday, Singh said India's commitments were conditional on Washington fulfilling its promises on access to technology.

"Reciprocity is key to implementation of all steps in the joint statement," he said.

"Before voluntarily placing civilian facilities under international safeguards we will ensure all restrictions on India have been lifted," he said.