India to conduct N-tests if geo-political situation warrant

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New Delhi, Dec 5 (UNI) Notwithstanding the belief of the Congress party in using the nuclear programme for peaceful purposes, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the country would go for nuclear tests, if the geo-political situation demanded.

In his hour-long reply to yesterday's debate in the Rajya Sabha over the Indo-US Nuclear deal, Mr Mukherjee asserted that there was nothing in the 123 agreement that prevents India from conducting nuclear tests.

''Yes, there will be no ban on further tests if the country finds it necessary. We will do it again like on two previous ocassions,'' he said.

Recalling India's nuclear programme right from the Nehruvian days, Mr Mukherjee said it was acknowledged as one of the most advanced atomic energy programmes, which was achieved with minimal outside support. ''Country's first Prime Minister and the Congress did not believe in weaponisation, otherwise one could imagine the level India have reached,'' he said.

Mr Mukherjee, brushing aside the NDA's assertions that the Congress did not conduct second nuclear test under pressure from the United States, the External Affairs Minister said he was a minister in the Indira Gandhi government and there was no reason to believe that she could have succumbed to US pressure.

Leader of Opposition Jaswant Singh clarified that the NDA had quoted former Defence Minister R Venkataraman, who even had got down into the bore hole ahead of the preparations for the nuclear tests.

He said Indian economy of the 1950s was jocularly compared by Nehru himself as that of New York municipal revenues and now the country with one trillion dollar economy could afford to support the nuclear programme, which at one point of time appeared unaffordable.

People said the same thing when former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi spoke of Information Technology and Mobile telephony.

''Nuclear energy at this point of time may appear costly but as the days pass, the costs would be like mobile phone tariff which appeared too expensive on the onset,'' he said.

He said the nuclear scientists and researchers had rendered great service to the country in taking it to the present level and everyone knew that weaponisation was just a ''screw driver turn'' away. This is how the NDA could conduct the Pokhran II tests, he said.

Stressing on the need to have a national nuclear policy, he said the BJP and its predecessor Jana Sangh was always wanting nuclear weaponisation and they did it in 1998 when they were in power, ''but the Congress believed in peaceful uses''. When the NDA came out with its nuclear doctrine -- no first use of N-weapons, non-use of N-weapons against a non-nuclear state, moratorium on future tests, the next government too had accepted the policy and the Indo-US nuclear treaty was not at all a deviation from this policy, Mr Mukherjee explained.

India, he said, will have to go in for every energy option available, including the nuclear power. It should not be scared of the entry of multi-nationals and do business with them. ''When India signed WTO everybody said the prices of drugs and pharmaceuticals in the country would go up exponentially but today the situation is that Indian pharma companies were doing a roaring business,'' he said.

The BJP, he said, was stressing on the minimum nuclear deterrant and it should be decided by the government of the day depending on the situation and circumstances. India, he said, wanted friendship with every country but also remains alert and alive to the security needs.

The Minister also did not accept the suggestion that the government should take the sense of Parliament before signing the deal. The Government had only initiated the process. It was now before the International Atomic Energy Agency for discussions. In the next stage, the deal will go for review before the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group and thereafter it will go to the US Congress which has to take a decision on its ratification in 90 days before the deal becomes operational, he explained.

Mr Mukherjee also made a plea to the political parties to have faith and trust in the intentions of persons in the government, saying none of them would take any decision that could harm the country's interests.

At the end of the reply almost all Opposition parties and even Left allies, Samajwadi Party belonging to the ruling benches staged a walkout to lodge their protest.

UNI

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