Sonia defends Indo-US nuclear deal

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New Delhi, Nov 17: A day after the Left parties allowed the UPA Government to hold talks with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards agreement, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today strongly defended the Indo-US nuclear deal, saying it was signed in ''paramount national interests.'' The deal would meet the country's growing energy needs in all spheres, be it agriculture or industry, she said in her inaugural address at the day-long AICC session here.

Ms Gandhi said once the deal was operationalised, India would get clean energy and new technology from friendly countries. She noted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has time and again assured the nation that the deal would not have any impact on the country's nuclear programme.

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''I acknowledge that there are differences within the UPA coalition on the nuclear deal. We are trying to evolve a consensus on it,'' she added.

Ms Gandhi declared that India was committed to universal nuclear disarmament as was enunciated by Rajiv Gandhi at the UN General Assembly in 1988. The whole world was today talking of universal nuclear disarmament.

Modi attacked: Sonia attacked the BJP-led Narendra Modi government in Gujarat, saying the ideals and accomplishments of Mahatma Gandhi have been annihilated in the land of his birth.

''Gandhi's contribution to political empowerment of weaker sections is being questioned,'' she said, while thanking the United Nations for declaring October as the ''International Day of Peace and Non-violence.'' She called upon party workers to be in the forefront to combat those who tried to subvert secularism. ''Let us continue to be inspired by Gandhiji's message.'' Taking a swipe at the BJP, Ms Gandhi said unlike the previous NDA government, the Congress did not play partisan politics when it came to the concerns of the poor.

On Women's Reservation Bill: The AICC president deeply regretted that the UPA Government has so far not been able to secure the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament and hoped there would soon be a political consensus on the important legislation.

Sonia scolds Central Ministers for airing views in public: The Congress high command came down heavily on Central ministers from her party for airing their personal views in public on critical national and international issues and directed them to strictly adhere to the party discipline.

''I want to make it absolutely clear to them that they have been given an opportunity to become ministers by the party though there are others who are equally capable of doing their job. Therefore, they have a special responsibility,'' she added.

Asserting that the party was supreme and it permitted internal debate on all important issues, she said all partymen must keep it in mind that they are not supposed to air contradictory views in public until the party had made known its stand. ''Once the party has made its stand known, they must not take a different position.


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