New Delhi: Manmohan Singh told his team to “call off” the Indo-US civil nuclear deal a night before its scheduled announcement by President George Bush after Americans came with a killer proposal to let India have just two of its nuclear reactors out of the international safeguards, a top aide of the former Indian Prime Minister has said.
Such a disclosure by former national security advisor MK Narayanan was made on Monday after former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Washington audience that then Prime Minister Singh called off the deal a night before its scheduled announcement on June 18, 2005 because the opposition parties in India were up in arms against it.
“I just wanted to set the record straight. I know that a view has been widely propounded that on the night of the June 17/18, Manmohan Singh had called off the deal. I think there were very valid reasons,” Narayanan said in his clarification issued during a day-long conference on the 10th anniversary of the landmark civil nuclear deal.
“The (US) State Department had a lot of people who wanted to teach India a lesson. By the time the visit was due, the number that was agreed on six to eight was reduced to two. That was the figure that was totally unacceptable from the point of view of the Ministry of External Affairs,” Narayanan said describing the sequence of events on the night of June 17/18 when Singh was visiting the United States.
“And therefore the position that night was the Prime Ministers words, which I might use, at 12.05 if the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Security Advisor are not willing to go along with the figure, let’s call it off and then we will,” Narayanan said.
Such a decision by the Prime Minister sent a strong message to the Americans. As the news reached the White House, Bush sent Rice to Willard Hotel where Singh was staying. According to Narayanan, the prime minister did not want to meet Rice at this point of time as he would not prefer to share this bad news directly.
Rice met the then External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh who then took Rice to the suit of the Prime Minister. Once the Americans agreed on a figure that was acceptable to Indians, the Prime Minister gave his go ahead for the deal, he said.