Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described as "totally wrong" allegations that the India-US civil nuclear deal would hurt the country's nuclear programme.
"The propaganda that the nuclear deal will hurt our strategic programme is totally wrong," the prime minister told the All India Congress Committee session here, departing from his prepared text.
"The agreement concerns only the civilian side of our nuclear programme. It has no bearing on our strategic programme, which will remain intact," he said.
"The propaganda that it will affect our sense of judgment and independence of our foreign policy is equally wrong," he added. "I have repeatedly said in parliament that India is too big a country, we have the heritage of [Jawaharlal] Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Nobody can bend India anywhere."
In his written speech, however, Manmohan Singh made a sedate reference to the controversial deal. He said: "The nuclear agreement is an effort to open closed doors for us so that we can obtain nuclear fuel and technology from countries such as the US, Russia and France and remove the shortage of electricity in the country. You need to understand this reality and explain to our people."
On Friday, India said it was going ahead with India-specific safeguards talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after the government's communist allies who had been earlier opposed to the negotiations gave a half-hearted green signal.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi endorsed Singh's assurances that the civil nuclear deal with the US will not affect the country's indigenous nuclear programme. "The prime minister has told the nation that the nuclear deal would not have any impact on our strategic nuclear programme. I endorse that view," she said in a speech to around 3,000 party delegates from all over the country. ( Gulf )