Tuesday August 28 2007 00:00 IST
HYDERABAD: In a dramatic turnaround, the BJP distanced itself from the Left over the Indo-US nuclear deal with Leader of Opposition L K Advani saying that his party has no objection to the 123 Agreement if the government amends the Indian Atomic Energy Act to ensure strategic independence and non-hindrance in reactor fuel supplies.
Speaking to this website's newspaper while visiting the blast sites in Hyderabad, Advani said: “It is anti-Americanism which propels the Left to oppose a nuclear ship docked at Chennai port. So far as the BJP is concerned, and it is in national interest that we have no objection to a strategic partnership with the US. This includes the forthcoming joint naval exercises.”
Advani, however, said that the proposed nuclear deal in the present form was an agreement between “unequals” and the BJP objected to such “strategic subservience”.
“We have always felt that India’s nuclear deterrence is imperative in the national interest. It is, therefore, that we have firmly resisted becoming part of the non-proliferation regime, which is what the nuclear deal seeks to impose on us,” he said.
But he made it clear that if the UPA government could bring an amendment in the Atomic Energy Act to protect India’s strategic independence then “there is no problem with the 123 Agreement.”
These latest remarks from the Leader of Opposition appear to undermine the Left’s consistent claim that a “majority” in Parliament are opposed to the nuclear deal. Advani said his party has pleaded that international agreements which impinge upon India’s strategic independence or territorial integrity should be ratified by Parliament and an amendment to this effect must be made in the Constitution.
He said it was his party which supported the UPA government on the vote against Iran at the IAEA as it did not want any other country in the neighbourhood to become a nuclear power. “Whatever that we do in the field of foreign policy has to be our choice... We regard it as odd that the American Hyde Act should be speaking about India’s attitude towards Iran,” he said.
According to Advani, the 123 Agreement between US and China stipulates that it overrides all national laws. But the 123 Agreement with India, he said, says that its implementation is subject to national laws (read Hyde Act).
“As a party that has always stood for national interests, we are in favour of amending the Atomic Energy Act which will ensure that all our efforts to get nuclear fuel for our reactors and our independent strategic policy (nuclear weaponisation) will not be affected,” he said.
Advani said the BJP and, before it, the Jan Sangh was always in favour of India going nuclear, particularly after the 1962 humiliation and the nuclear test by China in 1964.
He said they took the first opportunity in 1998 and went ahead with Pokhran-II, recalling that even former President R Venkataraman complimented the NDA for not giving in to American pressure and detonating the device.
“But as the then Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Manmohan Singh criticized the NDA government, saying that they do not realise the financial consequences of such an act... History has it that India overcame and it was this single decision of the NDA that raised India in world esteem in the past decade... It is the NDA government that consciously built good relations with the US post-Pokhran and we always got good response from Washington... Our opposition is just to the Hyde Act as it imposes strategic constraints on us,” he said.
He described the present UPA-Left alliance as one of “rank opportunism” and based on “deep hostility” towards the BJP. “Today both the parties are reaping the dividends of rank opportunism despite huge numerical numbers in Parliament... The UPA government is unstable and will not last the normal term,” he said.
THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS