Legal illiteracy leads to confusion over N-deal: FM

HYDERABAD: Three days ahead of the trust vote in Parliament, the lawyer in the finance minister P Chidambaram blamed the current stand-off over the Indo US nuclear deal to the “widespread and appalling legal illiteracy” in the country. Speaking at the NALSAR University of Law in Hyderabad on Saturday, Mr Chidambaram made a pitch for the legal fraternity to take a lead in placing the nuke-deal in the right perspective. The trust-vote, scheduled for Tuesday, follows the withdrawal of support by the Left parties to the ruling government on the grounds of the nuke deal being a sell-out to the United States. Chidambaram said the deal has raised many issues that require legal answers. If it were to be a case before a court of law, the facts are that India has agreed to enter into safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to facilitate its access to nuclear reactors, fuel and technology from the US and other countries. Further, the US has agreed to work with the 45-country Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to obtain a waiver to enable India access the nuclear fuel market. Only if these two steps are completed, India would be able to obtain cooperation in civil nuclear energy, he said. Since 1998, India’s nuclear isolation has led to it being denied access to nuclear reactors, fuel and technology. Hence, while the total installed capacity of nuclear power in India is 4,120 mega watt, the utilisation has steadily dropped from 90% in 2001-02 to 54% in 2007-08. Had a “reasoned debate” taken place, the answers to some of these issues related to the deal would have been self-evident, he said. According to him, the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation or the 123 agreement is merely an enabler. Even after it comes into legal force, the two countries will need to enter into further agreements to fulfill the objectives on an industrial and commercial scale. Operationalising the 123 agreement would require the two parties to complete all pre-requirements, exchange diplomatic notes and agree on the date on which 123 agreement would come into force. He held that the Hyde Act was a domestic US legislation not binding on India. “It cannot interfere with the implementation of the 123 agreement, which when ratified by the US Congress, will be a bilateral treaty between two sovereign countries,” he said.
20 Jul, 2008, 0104 hrs IST, ET Bureau


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