Nuke deal does not affect India's right to test: PM, Pranab

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New Delhi, Nov 28 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today assured the Lok Sabha that the Indo-US nuclear deal does not take away India's right to conduct nuclear tests and pursue an independent foreign policy.

Opposition MPs led by Mr L K Advani boycotted the reply to the debate by Mr Mukherjee, protesting against Dr Singh's refusal to respond to their objections.

''There is nothing in this agreement which prevents the exercise (nuclear test) of that sovereignty,'' Dr Singh said in his brief intervention during the six-and-a-half hour debate in which 29 MPs took part.

''What our government has committed on this issue of testing is no more than what your government had done that we are committed only to a unilateral moratorium,'' Dr Singh assured Leader of Opposition L K Advani.

In his one-hour-long reply to the debate, Mr Mukherjee allayed the apprehensions of the Left and the NDA on the Hyde Act of the US, stating that it was only an enabling provision to facilitate the American administration to enter into an agreement with a non-NPT (nunclear non-proliferation treaty) state.

None other than US President George Bush had assured India that the Hyde Act would not come in the way of the American administration honouring its commitments made in the July 18, 2005 joint statement, the March 2006 separation plan and other agreements.

The government had come to Parliament after completing each and every stage, he pointed out. He, however, rejected the Left demand for seeking the sense of the House, stating that the process was not yet complete and the government would come back to Parliament whenever there was a major stake in the process.

The 123 agreement had taken care of the nine points raised by the Left, he said. These included full civil nuclear cooperation, principle of reciprocity, permanent waiver, recognition of India as a state possessing advanced nuclear technology, acceptance of only IAEA safeguards, safeguarding the integrity and reliability of the strategic programme, rejection of the moratorium on production of fissile material and recognition of India as a sovereign entity.

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