Reacting sharply to the allegations of a "sell out" to the United States, levelled notably by the Left parties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared on Saturday that he would safeguard national interests "till the end of my life".
En route to Washington for discussions with President George W Bush, he told journalists on board his special aircraft that such allegations were an insult to the Congress.
"Can you imagine any prime minister consciously or unconsciously selling India? Nobody can sell India. India is not on sale," he asserted adding, "nobody has to teach us lessons on patriotism."
Singh, who arrived at Frankfurt on Saturday evening for an overnight halt before proceeding to Washington, was responding to questions on the criticism by the Left parties of the defence framework with the US and allegations that the government was diluting non-alignment.
Dr Singh said that the Congress had produced most outstanding leaders of India's freedom struggle who gave their lives to defend the dignity and honour of the nation.
"Preservation and protection of our national interest is of utmost importance and concern. I will safeguard these interests till the end of my life," Singh said.
He listed terrorism, discriminatory restrictions imposed by the US against technology transfer to India, energy security and trade and investment among the issues for discussions with US leaders.
Recalling the recent terrorists strikes in India and the UK, Singh said that global terrorism had to be recognised as a serious threat.
India, Singh affirmed, will never compromise nationally on terrorism and will work internationally to create a system of checks and balances against it.
He did not appear to be unduly perturbed by the US opposition to a resolution moved in the United Nations General Assembly by India and three other countries seeking permanent membership of the Security Council.
"Those who have power do not give it up easily. We have aspirations, all of which cannot be realised in one day. We will persevere and we will overcome," he said, adding that the US position was well known and will not change overnight.
The prime minister recalled that India had been subjected to discriminatory restrictions by the US after the Pokharan nuclear tests and said, "I hope the world now has a better understanding that we are a responsible nuclear power. We accept rights and obligations of a nuclear power."
The restrictive regimes imposed on India had outlived their utility, he said clearly indicating that he would discuss the issues with Bush.
Asked about US reservations on India-Iran gas pipeline, Singh said it was a matter between India and Iran.