BJP soft-pedals on re-negotiation of Indo-US nuclear deal

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Bangalore, Sep 12 (UNI) The BJP which had been strident in its opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal and vocal about its determination to renegotiate it if voted to power seems to be soft-pedalling on the issue during the party's National Executive and limited its condemnation to India's ''surrender'' of its testing options.

BJP President Rajnath Singh clearly avoided speaking about the party's decision to renogotiate the pact in his inaugural address at the three-day National Executive, the party's apex decision making forum, indicating the party's apparent softening of its stance on the deal which is now pending before the US Congress.

Mr Singh, however, chose to focus the BJP's opposition on questioning the ''moral right'' of the minority UPA government to bind India to an international agreement involving national security and sovereignty. The Government has totally twisted the truth and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh misled Parliament, political parties and the people of the country, he alleged.

He emphasised on India's ''surrender'' of its right to conduct further nuclear tests at a time when China was reportedly seeking to alter the regional strategic balance by going in for further nuclear tests.

Quoting a newspaper report from China claiming that Beijing would go ahead with more nuclear tests in the future, Mr Singh wondered if India had converted a unilateral assurance of no-nuclear tests to a multilateral international agreement.

The regional imbalance would get disturbed if Pakistan or China conducted nuclear tests but if India were to do the same, it would have to return the nuclear fuel and equipment it had been supplied, he said. The NSG countries were not legally bound to ensure 'assured supply' of fuel. ''The political assurances of these countries die with men and regimes while the (wordings of the) agreements bind the future relationships of the countries,'' he said.

Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh also avoided the issue in his interactions with the media but party spokesman Ravishankar Prasad cryptically maintained that the BJP's views on the matter were ''known''.

Alleging that the Centre's approach towards China had been ''slack and weak'', Mr Singh said the country's northern neighbour had tried to created disputes even in undisputed areas like Sikkim.

When Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee was in quake-affected China with relief materials, he was received by a junior official of the province and the Governor, he said.

The construction activities in the Himalayas in Tibet/China would have an adverse impact on the ecologically sensitive Himalayan region and the UPA government had not broached the issue with Beijing, he said.

The Prime Minister should raise these issues when he visited China in October, the BJP President said.

Touching upon the Bangladeshi links in the serial blasts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, Mr Jaswant Singh said the neighbouring country was yet to concede that terrorist camps operated from its soil.

On the developments in Nepal, Mr Singh said it had become a democratic republic and one could see the reflections of a multi-party system. The BJP welcomed the friendly, strong and intimate ties between the two neighbours like before.

About the reports of a denial of US visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP President said that Mr Modi had not sought any visa from that country. However, the ''meek acceptance'' of the denial of visa to a head of a democratically elected Government, cast doubts about the country's sovereignty, he alleged.

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