Left, BJP criticises Indo-US nuclear deal

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New Delhi, Dec 4: The UPA government today came under severe attack from both its ally Left Parties and the Opposition BJP over the Indo-US nuclear deal, which they said was against the national interest and would have adverse consequences for both the country's independent foreign policy and weapons programme. Initiating the debate on the civil nuclear cooperation deal with the US in the Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the Left parties' support to the government was based on the Common Minimum Programme which has no mention of the nuclear deal, which aims to ''make India a subordinate ally of the US''.

''The government must rethink or scrap the deal,'' he asserted.

Even BJP leader Yashwant Sinha agreed with Mr Yechury and said the agreement was contrary to the assurances given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and compromised on the independent foreign policy of the country. He said the nuclear pact was aimed at bringing India within the Nuclear Non-proliferation regime and would severely impact the country's strategic weapons programme.

The deal also ignores India's need for uninterrupted fuel supplies and advance technology, Mr Singh said.

Citing the high cost of nuclear energy, Mr Yechury said cost benefit analysis shows that nuclear energy produced by the imported reactors would be very costly than thermal and hydel power. He urged the government that instead of pursuing the ''costly option of energy supply which would benefit MNCs'', it should focus on thermal power, hydel electricity, solar and wind energy and use the money thus saved for opening more schools for children and hospitals to ensure better health care for its elderly.

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau member said the government's claim that the agreement would break India's nuclear apartheid was ''illusory'' as the text and sub-text of the 123 agreement to operationalise the deal did not substantiate it.

The agreement was aimed to make Indian foreign policy ''congruent'' to that of the US and make it a subordinate state, he added.

Mr Yechury said under pressure from the US government, India dithered from participating in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline which could have solved the energy needs of the country. He pointed out that even the State Bank of India has refused to give Letters of Credit for business in Iran and a corporate house has backtracked from its project in Iran under pressure from the US.

Pointing out various provisions of the enabling legislation on the deal, the Hyde Act, Mr Yechury said clauses in the Act could be invoked by future US Presidents to terminate the agreement, if India conducts nuclear test. In such a scenario, fuel supply would be stopped and even the reactors and technology could be recalled by the US.

This violated the Prime Minister's assurance about uninterrupted fuel supplies, the Communist leader pointed out, and said even the advance nuclear fuel enrichment technology would not be made available. The agreement was not based on ''reciprocity'' as assured by the Prime Minister, as after the operationalisation of the deal, Indian nuclear facilities would be under ''perpetual safeguard of the IAEA''.

''So the pretext, context and text of the agreement do not stand scrutiny to the claim that it will benefit us,'' he said and added that it would even harm the indigenous nuclear programme which was based on the huge Thorium deposits in the country. The conversion of Thorium into Uranium leads to a production of Plutonium which could be used even for weapons, so the production of Plutonium would be subject to international scrutiny under the Act.

In fact the agreement was meant to thwart India's nuclear programme by not allowing it to reach that stage where it could use Thorium, he said.

Cautioning the government against ''enlarging the Common Minimum Programme'', Mr Yechury said the Prime Minister should take lesson from the fate of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the former Australian Prime John Howard who paid the price for ''relying on US President George Bush''.

On BJP leader M M Joshi and AIADMK leader Jyothi's comment that for the Left parties supporting the government was more important than opposing the deal, he clarified that the Communists want the Indo-US deal be reconsidered and not operationalised but they also do not want to pull down the government.

Clarifying on the Leftists' go ahead to the government for negotiations with the IAEA, Mr Yechury said they agreed when the government assured that it would not sign anything without coming back and consulting them. ''In view of the high cost in terms of economy, sovereignty and vulnerability, the government must seriously reconsider the agreement and avoid taking a decision in haste,'' he said.

UNI

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