New Delhi, Mar.15 : Former Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Special Envoy on the Indo-U.S.-India civil nuclear deal, Shyam Saran, has said that India's objective in going through with it is to have a wide choice of partners in pursuing nuclear commerce and high technology trade.
Speaking in an interview with gfiles, Saran said Indian negotiators have been given a firm guideline not to accept any limitation whatsoever on "our strategic weapons programme, which must remain inviolate and fully autonomous."
According to Saran, this guideline from the UPA Government implied that India's strategic weapons programme would be outside the purview of any international safeguards regime or any form of external scrutiny. It also implied that India would have the ability to further develop and produce weapons without be constrained in any manner, and thirdly, New Delhi would retain the legal right to conduct a nuclear test at anytime in the future.
Asked to comment about the general view that India has agreed to permanent safeguards as envisioned by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Saran said: "We are aware of this. Our position from the outset had been that we have no problem with permanent safeguards, provided there are permanent supplies of (nuclear) fuel."
"The multi-layed fuel supply assurances are unique in international nuclear negotiations and include India's right to take corrective measures should any disruption still occur despite these assurances," he added.
When asked whether the U.S. Congress would agree to the amendments desired by India in the controversial and much debated Hyde Act, Saran replied in the affirmative, and added that there were "several extraneous and prescriptive provisions in the Hyde Act" with which New Delhi did not agree with, and "in negotiating the 123 Agreement, we have been more than careful to exclude such provisions."
He said that if the U.S. Congress felt that the 123 Agreement in its present form contravened the Hyde Act in any way, the Agreement would not be considered viable or acceptable, and that would be the end of the deal.
He admitted that in the ongoing negotiations, both sides faced enormous challenges, but added that as of now, New Delhi was awaiting the finalisation of the India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA and for the Nuclear Suppliers Group to consider exempting India from its current guidelines.
"It is our expectation that there would be a fairly simple and clean exemption from these guidelines, without any conditionalities or even expectations regarding India's conduct in future. Finally, the U.S. Congress has to vote to approve the 123 Agreement. Only when these separate landmarks have been achieved, can we really have the practical possibility of resuming civil nuclear cooperation with the international community," Saran said.
As far as nuclear retaliatory threats were concerned, Saran said that India has always argued and maintained that as long as the world is divided between those who possess nuclear weapons and those who do not, "there will always be a strong incentive for countries outside the (nuclear) club to seek to enter it."
As long as such motivation exists, he said clandestine operations like the one managed by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist A Q Khan would emerge and even persist, and haunt the world, Saran added.
India, he said, is deeply concerned about this danger of clandestine proliferation impacting on its neighbourhood.
India as a nuclear weapons state is in a position to take the lead in addressing the danger of nuclear terrorism, he said, adding that efforts were on to have the US-India nuclear cooperation deal signed sooner than later.