123: Pranab says India has right to conduct nuclear tests

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New Delhi, Sep 14 (UNI) India today said there is nothing in the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement that stops it from conducting nuclear tests but if New Delhi has a right to act, others have right to react.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in an interview to a news channel, "We have just signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, it is not for military purpose and our military program is separate." ''If the country considers it necessary to conduct nuclear tests it can do so, nothing stops us in this agreement. Therefore, we are entitled to conduct nuclear tests if it is found necessary,'' but in the same breath he cautioned that ''we have to face the consequences as we did in 1974 and 1998'' hinting that ''we might have to face international sanctions and nuclear isolation as we faced after Pokhran blasts ten years ago.'' Calling the inking of the deal by the UPA without signing the CTBT and NPT as ''not a mean achievement'', Mr Mukherjee replied strongly to the BJP that ''it should not forget that just after Pokhran blasts it declared unilateral nuclear moratorium that we will not undertake nuclear tests further." He mocked BJP that ''it was a senior leader of the party and the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who declared in the United Nations that we are ready to sign CTBT.'' Mr Mukherjee also denied that India might have succeeded in achieving unanimity at NSG forum but country is divided from within on this issue. He said that it was nothing new and same has been the case in the past too citing example of WTO. Saying he was not surprised at the ill tempered language used by Left leaders, Mr Mukherjee added that ''there are few people who always use extreme language.'' Mr Mukherjee, however, refused to comment on if the deal will see a smooth passage through the US Congress while saying that he was hopeful that the treaty will be ratified.

He also was not willing to commit whether during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with American President George W Bush, the final draft of the deal will be inked ? ''Let us wait and see, the process has already started,'' he said.

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