March 07, 2021
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The PM Responds

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The PM Responds

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today rejected criticism of the nuclear deal with the United States saying that it was not not a "one-sided arrangement" and that the obligations undertaken by the two countries were entirely on the basis of reciprocity.

Addressing a press conference on the last day of his three-day state visit here, he said only when the United States implemented its commitments to India's satisfaction would India then also reciprocate.

Asked about his predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee's criticism of the nuclear deal, Singh said he has not seen his statement but if what has been attributed to him is correct, the BJP leader's comments were based on "misconception" regarding the agreement with the US.

On the question of separation of civil and military nuclear facilities, the Prime Minister said all decisions would be taken in the national interests and "on the basis of our own security concerns".

Asked if he would be able to secure a consensus in Parliament on the agreements reached here, Singh that Parliament was sovereign and the government could move forward only on the basis of a national consensus. He would be making a suo-motu statement in Parliament on his visit and its results.

Stating that his visit Washington was not directed against any other power, the Prime Minister said that India's "purposeful engagement with our great neighbour China" would continue. New Delhi would proceed with its constructive engagement with Beijing.

Asked whether he had the confidence to push through the major initiatives taken with the US, China and the peace process with Pakistan, the Prime Minister responded that he was fully confident of his government's ability to do so.

He was mindful of the fact that the government he was leading was a coalition government but he had great faith in the inherent patriotism of all elements concerned.

The initiatives that had been taken were in the larger interest of the country and he was confident of getting the support of the Indian public opinion and the political parties for these initiatives.

Defending the agreement on nuclear cooperation, Singh said that it provided a way forward for India to break out of its present isolation and expand international cooperation "enabling us to enhance the contribution of nuclear energy in meeting our future energy needs".

"At the same time, it does not in any way lead to diminution of our strategic nuclear capabilities which could affect our national security interests," he said.

A carefully selected working group will determine how best to progress on matters reflected in the Joint Statement issued after talks with US President George W. Bush, Singh said.

On the issue of terrorism, Singh said that there was great appreciation of the dilemma India faced when he had discussed with the US authorities the position on the ground along the Line of Control in Kashmir.

President George W Bush and his senior colleagues recognised the task that lay ahead if the peace process with Pakistan has to move forward.

Asked about the proposed gas pipeline with Iran, Singh said it was a decision to be taken by India and Iran and outside parties had no role in it.

A questioner asked whether he was confident that the Bush Administration would be able to implement the joint statement.

The Prime Minister responded by saying that he very much hoped so because he had been touched by the sincerity of Bush and his colleagues. He was very confident that the US Administration would use its influence to implement the agreements reached.

About the nuclear deal, Singh in his opening remarks said "both countries have agreed on reciprocal commitments, which will be addressed in a phased manner. "

"I believe that this agreement proves a way forward for India to break out of its present isolation and expand international cooperation, enabling us to enhance the contribution of nuclear energy in meeting our future energy needs," he said.

At the same time, "it does not in any way, lead to a diminution of our strategic nuclear capabilities which could affect our national security interests", the Prime Minister stressed.

Singh said both he and Bush had reached agreement on ways and means on how both countries would proceed in this area. These have been reflected in the joint statement, he said.

Observing that his message during this visit has been simple and substantial, he said the government and people of India were ready and willing for "substantive engagement" with the US.

"There are enough commonalities and shared concerns which should have ensured such engagement earlier. The absence of such an ongoing engagement has been a gap that both sides should try to fill; we, on our part, are doing everything we can in that direction," he said.

Singh said he had focussed on this in his meetings with Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Cabinet members.

Lauding the role of the sizeable and influential community of people of Indian origin in the US, he said they have helped change the way "we see the US and the US sees us".

India's emergence as an IT leader, its desire to go beyond that to transform itself into a knowledge economy and its unique strengths in terms of professional skills and expertise of a high order in virtually every sector of activity were reflected in the Indian community in this country very vividly, he said.

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