'Ind-US should have strong bilateral relations'

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New York, Oct 4: Asserting that the Indo-US nuclear deal should not be treated as a touchstone for ties between India and the US, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said the two countries will continue to share strong and cordial bilateral relations. ''I am afraid that I do not pin hope only on this particular arrangement (nuclear energy deal). Our relationship -- you talk of a 60-year relationship. That means from the very beginning, we have had a good relationship with the US. Sometimes there have been -- in every relationship, there may be things that may not work, but nonetheless, we have good relations from day one,'' Mr Mukherjee said yesterday on the Charlie Rose Show TV show on PBS channel.

''The United States is the single largest country to us. We have the single largest industrial and technical collaboration with one country -- United States of America,'' he pointed out.

This was probably the first instance that the Minister openly mentioned the nuclear deal during his 10-day US visit, which concluded yesterday. The recording for the show was the last engagement Mr Mukherjee had before he left for London on his way to New Delhi.

''I would like to make one point quite clear: When we did not agree to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is not that we disagreed with the ultimate objective of non-proliferation,'' he noted.

The Minister said in 1989, then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, in his vision of nuclear disarmament, clearly pointed out that India can manufacture a weapon.

''But we have kept our options open...We did not use our options.'' ''Unfortunately... the international community did not listen to us. Therefore, because of our geopolitical situation, everyone is aware of it. I am not going to repeat it. We had to go for the second nuclear explosions in 1998. But there, too, immediately after that, irrespective of sanctions or not, we voluntarily declared our nuclear doctrine,'' he added.

''And three essential ingredients of that are, A, there will be no first use. B, it will not be used against non-nuclear weapon states, C, we declared ourselves voluntary moratorium on further test and D, we wanted to have minimum credible deterrent for self-defence, not for aggression,'' Mr Mukherjee explained.

Citing that the UN organisation should reflect ''contemporary realities'', Mr Mukherjee said New Delhi should get a seat on the Security Council as it has all the requirements to be a permanent member. The international scenario has undergone huge changes since the inception of the world body in 1945, he noted.


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