With less than three weeks to go before US President George Bush’s visit, the centrepiece of his India trip, the July 18 agreement between Washington and New Delhi on the separation of civilian and military nuclear programmes, has raised more questions than answers. Now, an interview granted by Atomic Energy Commission chairman and secretary, department of atomic energy, Dr Anil Kakodkar, has raised a controversy, both in terms of timing as well as of import. Only last week PM Manmohan Singh, under whose direct charge comes the DAE, had declared to the press that he intended to take Parliament into confidence on the N-deal. Now, Dr Kakodkar has let it be known that in his view the fast breeder reactors, deemed critical for maintaining an independent posture on India’s nuclear energy projections, could not be brought under the proposed separation plan, as the Americans had demanded. Kakodkar further suggested that the Americans were trying to micromanage the exercise of separating the N-facilities, when the July 18 agreement said it was up to India to make the determination.
Government sources say the interview amounted to an attempt to tie the hands of the PM as he prepared to make his case in Parliament. They say the controversy was "unnecessary" but clarify that the widely reported meeting between the PM and Kakodkar, where the latter was "chastised", was one that had been scheduled for some time. Apparently, it wasn’t called specifically to bring the erring Atomic Energy Commission chairman down a couple of notches.