Pranab describes Nuke Deal as "landmark" achievement"

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New Delhi, Oct 20 (UNI) Describing the Indo-US Nuclear Deal and tie-ups with other countries as a "landmark achievement", External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha today that the agreements were fully consistent with national interest and "a vindication and recognition of India's impeccable non-profileration credentials." Making a suo motu statement in the House, Mr Mukherjee asserted "This initiative in no way constrains our ability to pursue an independent foreign policy. It does not in any way affect our strategic autonomy." Moreover, these initiatives would create more space for India to pursue a foreign policy "which serves our national interest." It would meet the country's nuclear requirement as well as impart a growing role in global affairs, he said.

Mr Mukherjee said the three-stage indigenous nuclear programme would continue as envisaged by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr Homi Bhabha.

India-specific safeguards agreement as well as the country's nuclear cooperation with the US and France would "pose no hindrance to our strategic programme and we retain the freedom to take action with regard to our strategic programme even as we engage in international cooperation in civil nuclear energy.

"Nuclear energy offers us an economically and environmentally viable alternative," he said, adding the country would, however, continue to develop renewable sources of energy such as bio-fuels, wind energy as well as other sources like hydel power.

He said the country had about 4000 mw of installed capacity in nuclear power. The existing plants were operating at much lower level than their capacity due to the shortage of uranium. "With the opening up of international nuclear trade and commerce we will have new opportunities to expand our nuclear power capacity," he added.

Mr Mukherjee said nuclear energy was the only effective way to bridge the energy gap which would be 4,12,000 mw by 2050 if the country maintained an annual GDP growth rate of 9-10 per cent.


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