Making a statement in the Lok Sabha, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said India will undertake the civil nuclear cooperation with the US and any other country on the basis of bilateral agreements only and that the government has "no doubt" that Washington will fulfil its "commitments and obligations" specified in the agreement.
He also underlined that the nuclear deal with the US, France or the Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency entail no hindrance to India's 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."
Mukherjee made the statement on the developments related to 'India's civil nuclear energy initiative' even as Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia raised the issue of alleged breach of privilege by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue.
Seeking to allay concerns, including whether India would be able to maintain the independence of its foreign policy, Mukherjee said "our foreign policy will be determined at all times by our own assessment of our national interest."
He insisted that "this initiative in no way constrains our ability to pursue an independent foreign policy. It does not in any way affect our strategic autonomy. In fact, it does the opposite by increasing our foreign policy options."
Mukherjee informed the House that after concluding civil nuclear agreements with the US and France, India hopes to finalise such a pact with Russia during the upcoming visit of President Dmitry Medvedev.
The External Affairs Minister said the NSG decision to open up the possibility for India to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with other countries actually enhances the country's choices to engage as an equal partner with the international community.
"I can say emphatically that this initiative creates more space for us to pursue a foreign policy which serves our national interest," he said. He said the IAEA agreement and the NSG approval provide India a "passport" to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with international partners. "We are now in the process of getting visas by engaging with our international partners to negotiate and finalise bilateral cooperation agreements."
Emphasising that the agreements with the US and France and the one to be signed with Russia "represent a careful balance of rights and obligations," he said "cooperation with our international partners will be carried out on the basis of the terms and provisions" of these pacts.
He said these agreements provide cooperation in various aspects of nuclear fuel cycle, including fuel supply assurances "which are the basis of our civil nuclear initiative as well as our right to build our strategic fuel reserves, to ensure the uninterrupted operation of our civil nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards."