December 20, 2004

Indian National Congress likely to overturn N-policy: L K Advani

Congress likely to overturn N-policy: Advani

By Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI, Dec 19: India's Congress-led coalition government braced for damage control on Sunday, after the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused it of seeking to reverse the country's nuclear policy.

BJP President Lal Krishan Advani said in a statement in Coimbatore on Saturday that Foreign Minister Kunwar Natwar Singh's remarks in Seoul last week advising the Koreas not to follow India's exmaple in pursuing nuclear arms, indicated that New Delhi could be planning to reverse the policy.

Mr Singh's advice "tendered in an interview given to a South Korean newspaper, amounts to a brazen repudiation of the most important dimension of India's self-defence strategy.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has distanced himself from the foreign minister's remarks, but the BJP appeared to be unimpressed. "Besides, it is a negation of the UPA government's own commitment, contained in the Congress-led alliance's common minimum programme, on maintaining India's nuclear deterrence at a credible minimum level," Mr Advani said.

Mr Advani masked the fact the BJP had almost always slammed Congress party's defence and foreign policy, was reflected in the repudiation of the Simla Agreement. "Never in the history of independent India has any external affairs minister rubbished the nation's strategic defence interests, that too on a foreign soil, in as reckless a manner as Shri Natwar Singh has done," Mr Advani said.

He said it had become a habit with senior representatives of the UPA government to criticize the BJP and the Vajpayee government on foreign soil - something which we had never done vis-à-vis the Congress and the rest of the opposition during our six years in office.

"A minister, especially one who holds the crucial external affairs portfolio, is expected to defend the country's defence and foreign policies before international audiences with conviction and persuasive skills," Mr Advani said. "Sadly, here is a minister who is apologetic to the point of self-deprecation about the fact that India has become a nuclear-weapons power."

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