Need to Know | No takers for govt stand as BJP, Left score on N-debate

Need to Know | No takers for govt stand as BJP, Left score on N-debate

New Delhi: In a long-pending debate on the India-US nuclear agreement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured Parliament on Wednesday that the deal does not bar India from carrying out a nuclear test in future.

“If a necessity for carrying out a nuclear test arises in future, there is nothing in the agreement which prevents us from carrying out tests," Singh said in the Lok Sabha, intervening during the address of leader of Opposition L.K. Advani. Singh said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had committed to nothing more than a unilateral moratorium declared by the previous government.

Advani, however, rejected the assertion, saying there was a difference between the unilateral moratorium declared by the A.B. Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, after India had conducted a nuclear test in 1998, and entering into a pact that would collapse the moment India conducts a test.

Advani said “no self-respecting country" would agree to such a deal ,adding, if the NDA returned to power, it would get the harmful provisions of the pact deleted or, reject the deal altogether. He said he opposed the deal as it relegated India to being a junior partner of the US, besides infringing on India’s sovereign right.

Even as the debate, conducted under rule 193, did not entail voting on the deal, the UPA government was reduced to a minority over the issue as the Left parties also reiterated their vehement opposition to the deal.

The principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, staged a walkout during external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s reply as it sought an answer from the Prime Minister.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Rupchand Pal, who opened the debate, said the Left parties opposed the deal as it sought to entangle India in the strategic designs of the US. “Take the sense of the House and don’t proceed with the deal," he said. Both the BJP and the Left said the so-called 123 Agreement failed to live up to the PM’s assurances.

Ralf Schumacher, Fisichella to test for Force India team

Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella, former winners in search of a Formula One (F1) lifeline, will be among seven drivers testing for Force India in Spain next week.

The renamed team, formerly Spyker, said on Wednesday that the two would each have a full day of testing in Jerez from 4-7 December, joining fellow hopefuls Christian Klien of Austria, Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi and France’s Franck Montagny. Dutchman Giedo van der Garde and Spaniard Roldan Rodriguez, neither of whom have any F1 race experience, complete the testing line-up.

A team spokeswoman said Adrian Sutil, the German rookie who competed for Spyker this year, was confirmed for the next season and had no need to take part in the test.

Compatriot Schumacher, younger brother of retired seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, who will be testing for Ferrari in Jerez the same week, left Toyota in October after three generally lacklustre years.

Ralf Schumacher said Force India part-owner Vijay Mallya’s passion for the game would propel the team to F1 glory.

“I have known Vijay for many years over my time with Toyota. I fully understand his passion for the sport and know that he will put this drive into Force India to make it a success," said Ralf in a statement.

“For any driver, driving for a young dynamic team with high ambitions is a good opportunity, but at the moment it is just one test to see how we get on working together, and whether this is possible. I think I can help the team with its development programme but we will see," he said.

‘PTI’ contributed to this story.