UPA Government can't mend or end US-India nuke deal: Mukherjee

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New Delhi, Mar.19 : Stridenty defending the need for the US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday fended off objections to it from both the Left and the Opposition, saying the UPA Government could neither "mend" nor "end" the deal.

"We are in a stage where neither we can mend it nor end it. We are in the dialogue stage," Mukherjee said in the Rajya Sabha, while responding to concerns raised by its members during a discussion on foreign policy-related developments.

Noting that there was some advancement in talks with regard to an India-specific safeguards agreement at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mukherjee said the negotiations are yet to be inked.

"When the entire process is over, we will come and seek Parliament's opinion. Let that stage come," he said rejecting the BJP demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the deal.

He said that "never before had " the country subjected an international agreement to the scrutiny of Parliament.

The Left and the BJP, however, attacked the government for going ahead with the negotiations despite opposition to it in Parliament.

They charged the government with diluting India's independent foreign policy.

Dismissing the charge that the government was not taking Parliament into confidence on the nuclear deal, Mukherjee said whenever there was major development, the information would be shared with members.

He pointed out that since July 2005, the issue has been discussed five times in Parliament.

Responding to the BJP charge that the main oppostion was kept in the dark and the information was shared only with the Left, Mukherjee said it was an internal arrangement since the Left Front was supporting the government from outside.

To this, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury quipped "let them (the BJP) join UPA".

On the situation in Tibet, the External Affairs Minister said while India had given shelter to Dalai Lama and his followers for the last several decades for spiritual acts.

"They are advised not to indulge in political activities that can jeopardise our relationship with any friendly country," he said.

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has appreciated India's position, Mukherjee said, adding that India's stand should not be taken as patronisation.

On Pakistan, Mukherjee admitted that the composite dialogue has been stalled in the wake of political developments in Pakistan, but expressed confidence that the dialogue would resume as soon as the new government takes charge in that country.

"As soon as the new government is in place, we shall begin the composite dialogue," he said adding there was quite a forward movement in the visa liberalisation and on the issue of Prisoners of War (PoWs).

Mukherjee said with Afghanistan joining the SAARC, he was hopeful that a day would come Indians would be able to visit Kabul through Pakistan.

On Sri Lanka, he said India has "no sympathy" for LTTE which is a banned organisation in the country. However, the issue concerning Tamils including devolution of power must be addressed as per constitution of the island nation.

On the issue of Indian fishermen being subjected to attacks by Sri Lankan navy, he said negotiations were currently on and expressed hope that a solution would soon be found.

To a specific query from CPI member D Raja whether India was providing training to Sri Lankan army personnel, Mukherjee said this kind of cooperation was going on for many years. India was engaged in such cooperation with several other countries, he added.

ANI

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