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Reply by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to the Lok Sabha (House of the People) debate on India's vote at the IAEA on Iran's Nuclear Programme

New Delhi 
March 6, 2006

Mr. Speaker Sir, 

Hon’ble Members have raised several points in the debate following my suo motu statement on our vote at the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear programme. I respect the views voiced by Hon. Members on this important issue and I thank them for contributing to the debate in this august House. 

Several members have made the point that our foreign policy should be guided by national interests, and that our positions on such issues should not be based on the position of other countries. My friends, Shri Gurudas Dasgupta and Shri Subroto Bose made these points, as did Shri Kharabela Swain. There can be no two opinions that Government should not take predetermined positions, or positions at the behest of other nations. No one can dispute that it is Government’s duty to take a position on such matters after a dispassionate examination of the facts, keeping in mind our national interests. I respectfully submit that in the present case, the Government has done precisely this. We have considered the facts and have exercised our independent judgment before taking a position. This is also the very essence of the policy of Non Alignment, which my friend Shri Rupchand Pal exhorted us to follow. 

Let me recapitulate the essential facts of the matter : 

- Iran has the legal right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, but it also has certain obligations and responsibilities, based on the Safeguards Agreement which it voluntarily undertook with the IAEA

- It was in recognition of the existence of several unanswered questions that Iran agreed to start the process of assisting IAEA with investigations into several past activities. 

- An important part of this process was the voluntary suspension by Iran of all enrichment and reprocessing activity in November 2004. 

- However, since last August, Iran has renewed production of Uranium Hexafluoride, and since then, of uranium enrichment. 

- Unresolved question regarding centrifuge imports and designs to make uranium metallic hemispheres remain. The origin of such procurement is an issue of direct concern for us. 

Under these circumstances, our position was based on these facts, which emerged from an objective investigation by the IAEA, and through information disclosed by Iran itself. 

Mr. Speaker Sir, 

There is also the question that several Hon. Members raised regarding the IAEA Board of Governors’ meeting today. Shri Chandrappan and Shri Owaisi spoke of this. I should inform Members that it is as yet not clear in what manner this issue will be taken up by the Board of Governors today. The Resolution adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors last month mentions certain steps that Iran and the IAEA will be taking. Discussions are taking place in Vienna on this matter. The Government’s approach will be based on our consistent policy of promoting efforts for a resolution of issues through dialogue and discussions. I would like to assure Hon. Members that Government will take into account the sentiments expressed in this House in this context. 

Some points were also made regarding options that could have been explored by the international community. There have also been discussions between Iran and Russia in this regard. We remain hopeful that solutions acceptable to all sides will be found. We do not favour confrontation, rhetoric or coercive measures as these only exacerbate tensions in the region and beyond. India has consistently stated that all sides must work to find mutually acceptable compromise solutions, and that confrontation should be avoided at all costs. For this to be possible, time must be given for diplomacy to work. I think there is consensus in Parliament and in our country that confrontation is not in the interests of India or of our region. Whenever the matter is taken up, we will work with all like-minded countries, including those from the NAM, for a mutually acceptable resolution of the issue. 

Mr. Speaker Sir, 

Several Hon. Members, including Maj Gen Khanduri expressed concerns regarding our relations with Iran, and the effect of these developments on this important relationship. As I said in my suo motu statement, our Government is committed to widening, deepening and expanding our diverse and mutually beneficial ties with Iran. Only recently, my colleague the Minister of State for External Affairs, Shri E Ahammed, visited Tehran. He had meetings with the President of Iran, H.E. Mr. Ahmadinejad, as well as several Ministers of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Shri Ahammed emphasized our desire to remain engaged with Iran on all issues of mutual interest. Our desire to further deepen the friendly and productive ties between our two countries was fully reciprocated. 

Government will continue to monitor the situation closely, and will deal with the Iran issue with the seriousness that it merits. 

In dealing with this issue, we will pay due attention to our relationship with Iran, the need to maintain peace and stability in the Gulf region and safeguarding our own security. 

I reiterate that this House can rest assured that we will also take into account the sentiments expressed in the House. 

Thank you.