Cairo, July 3 : Visiting Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said late on Wednesday that India could not consider civil nuclear cooperation with Egypt or any other country at the present juncture, as it is yet to be a signatory of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and join the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Addressing a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Aboul Gheit here after delegation-level talks lasting an hour and a half long, Mukherjee said: "Currently, India cannot cooperate with any country in nuclear matters because, as per the NPT arrangements, only 45 countries, those who are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), are eligible to engage in nuclear trade. India has not signed the NPT, and India is not a member of these 45 countries group of NSG, and we are deprived of having any nuclear trade with any country."
Mukherjee's statement assumes significance in the light of the UPA Government's present stand-off with the Left parties over the vexed US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which has the potential of causing a collapse of the government if negotiations with either the Left or other parties like the Samajwadi Party, fail to progress beyond stated stands.
In an apparent message from the Indian Government to the United States not to adopt aggressive postures against Iran, the Indian Foreign Minister said that New Delhi is not in favour of coercive action against any country, especially a country that was a legitimate and established member of the United Nations.
"In respect of Iran, I entirely agree with my Egyptian counterpart that there should be no armed engagement. In fact, we are against any coercive armed engagement. The issues are to be resolved through dialogue, and any unilateral armed action (by the United States) against a country (Iran), a member of the United Nations, is unacceptable, undesirable, and nobody should indulge in it. It should not be acceptable to the international community," Mukherjee said.
Responding to a question on India's support of Africa as a member of the United Nations, the visiting dignitary said that New Delhi is committed to supporting the African continent, "whose commitment to the Charter of the United Nations is second to none."
He further said that it was the right of every country to share power in multilateral fora equally, whether any one of them was in either the permanent or non-permanent category. There was no need for distinctions to be made, he said, adding that more important than expansion of the world body, the need of the hour was for it to be democratized and reformed in tune with the ground realities of the 21st century.
As he was on a visit to a country in the Middle East, Mukherjee also voiced his concern over the violent political stalemate bedeviling relations between Israel and the Palestinian State.
Urging both to exercise utmost restraint, he said: " We do not encourage any escalation of and precipitation of action by either side of Palestine. Therefore, there must be restraint. All problems are to be resolved not through violence, but through dialogue," Mukherjee said, adding that Egypt and other Arab countries were doing there bit to improve the situation in the region.
Referring specifically to his interactions with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm-El Sheikh, and Foreign Minister Gheit, Mukherjee described the engagement as extremely fruitful, and "We want to expand our relationship politically, economically, culturally, human resource development, in every sphere."
He further reiterated that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which was of 53 years standing, had not lost its relevance and had the required dimensions to promote South-South cooperation between the lesser developed countries.
He confirmed that issues of energy and food security, the current global energy and oil crisis had figured in his talks with Gheit, and that both countries were of the consensual view that these crises needed to be tackled sooner than later.
On his part Gheit said that he had briefed Mukherjee about developments in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Dafur and issues relating to the United Nations Security Council.
He confirmed that issues relating to the subcontinent were also discussed, including Indian foreign policy and how India looks at the world etc.
Egypt, he said, was all for enhancing cooperation in all fields with India, be it industrial, information technology, culture, and or universities.
"Everything that relates to human activity, we (Egypt and India), will be working together," Foreign Minister Gheit said.We welcome at anytime strategic exchanges and engagement with India. We are ready to sign an agreement between the two Foreign Ministers' to ensure this sort of continuous dialogue. We are open for India. We would never obstruct any civil society from enaging in discussions on any issue," Gheit concluded.
After the joint press conference, the two delegations proceeded to resume their dialogue over dinner. By Ashok Dixit