One interesting anecdote narrated by the former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao deserves to be mentioned. The narration will make clear exactly why it is the duo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that has been at the vanguard of the UPA'sefforts at ensuring that India be emasculated as a nuclear weapons power.
The role of this pair of acting as the standard bearers for interests not regarded as being congruent with India'swas first evident in 1992 That year, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee'sministry floated a suggestion that India consider signing on to the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty, a course of action that President Bill Clinton of the United States was forcefully urging upon New Delhi.
The MEA put together a team to negotiate with Washington, and?as when the 2005 nuclear understanding was discussed?there was no representation given to the scientific community. It was Prime Minister Rao, as the Minister incharge of Atomic Energy, who casually informed the scientists about the suggestion. They immediately pointed out to him the dangerous effect on Indian security were the country to sign on to the FMCT.
In response, Rao convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, to which he made sure that leading scientists would be invited to give their views. Certain MEA officials (shades of Shyam Saran and Ronen Sen) pushed hard for both the talks as well as an ?accomodation with the sole remaining Superpower?. This line of argument was swiftly punctured by the scientists, who elucidated the reasons why it would be a disaster were India to sign on to the FMCT, or even be seen as willing to move down that treacherous slope. Once negotiuations got started, the pressures from Washington would multiply manifold.Far better, they advised, to draw a line by refusing to entertain such a request (one designed to ensure the pre-eminence of China in Asia). It was at this stage, revealed Rao, that two members of the CCS lost their tempers and began to harangue the scientists. Who was this pair? None other than (then Finance Minister) Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee.
In Singh'sview as expressed during the meeting, even the 1974 Pokhran-I explosion had been a mistake, a comment that shocked Rao .Fortunately, (then Defence Minister) Sharad Pawar agreed with the scientists? view, and as a result, the effort at getting India to bind itself to the FMCT was abandoned for the time being. Looked at in the light of their 1992 stance – as well as the stand taken by Manmohan Singh in 1995 when the proposal to test a nuclear device was debated – their defence of the Henry J Hyde Bill as expressed on December 18 and 19 comes as no surprise.