India Declares Right To Test Nukes Despite Civilian Deal With U.S.

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NEW DELHI — India’s prime minister said yesterday that the country would retain its right to carry out future nuclear tests despite a civilian nuclear deal with America, a news report said.

“There is no scope for capping of our strategic [nuclear] program.It will be decided by the people, government, and Parliament of the country and not by any outside power,” Press Trust of India quoted Prime Minister Singh as saying in a statement in Parliament.

Mr. Singh and President Bush signed an agreement in July 2005 that would allow American agencies and companies to sell India nuclear fuel and technology. In return, India would have to strengthen nuclear safeguards, allow international inspections of its civilian facilities, and separate its civilian and military nuclear programs.

Yesterday, Mr. Singh also said India would not give any commitment that goes beyond a unilateral moratorium on future nuclear tests.

If required by the circumstances, he said, India would have the sovereign right to take a decision on atomic tests in its national interest, PTI reported.

He also said India did not favor a bilateral comprehensive test ban treaty with America. “This has been made unambiguously clear [to the U.S.],” PTI quoted him as saying. After its 1998 nuclear tests, India announced a unilateral moratorium on further tests and said it would use nuclear weapons only if attacked.

Mr. Singh’s comments in Parliament came in response to criticism by Hindu nationalist opposition and leftist allies who say the government is succumbing to American pressures that allegedly aim to cap India’s independent nuclear program.

The opposition and communist allies sought assurances from Mr. Singh that India’s nuclear program would not be curbed by what they describe as the shifting of goal posts by American lawmakers.

The House of Representatives approved the deal last month but added stringent new clauses requiring annual certification on the use of the technology and fuel for peaceful purposes.

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