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India must move away from fossil fuels: Bush
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington, DC | February 23, 2006 11:37 IST
As he prepares to travel to South Asia in the first week of March, US President George W Bush has said one of the primary reasons of reaching a civilian nuclear deal with India is that the country is in need of 'diversification away from fossil fuels'.
But he was non-committal about a similar arrangement with Pakistan.
In an interview with Pakistani journalists at the White House, Bush discussed a number of issues pertaining to not only Washington's ties with Islamabad, but global issues such as the furore in the Islamic world about cartoons and having to take a tough stand against Iran.
When asked if the civilian nuclear energy initiative is India-specific or whether it could be applied to Pakistan too, Bush replied: "We are starting with India, and one of the primary reasons is that India is in need of a diversification away from fossil fuels."
"India is consuming a lot of fossil fuel. That is part of the reasons why the price is rising. America uses a lot of fossil fuels, China is using more fossil fuels, India is using more fossil fuels, and it's affecting the price of energy in the United States and in India and in Pakistan.
"And so, therefore, to the extent to which we can get these fast-growing, developing nations to use something other than fossil fuels, it's in the world's interest, and it's in Pakistan's interest, as well," said Bush, who is arriving in India on March 1 for a three-day visit.
Bush rejected the notion that this is something of a zero-sum attitude on the part of the United States. "It's the beginning of a policy that says there will be a suppliers group of people who are capable of providing fuel stocks for a civilian nuclear power industry, countries that will then collect the spent fuel, reprocess it to be able to burn it in new types of reactors," he said.
"The purpose of this whole initiative, and beginning with countries like India, is to recognise that alternative sources of energy are going to be important for the development of a clean world and a world that becomes substantially less reliant on non-renewable sources of energy," Bush said.
Pressed if Pakistan can be included in this, he responded, "As I said, this is just the beginning of a very long process."
On the issue of the gas pipeline involving India, Iran and Pakistan, Bush argued that it was critical to send a firm message to Tehran that development of nuclear weapons is not acceptable.
"What's important is that India, Pakistan, and the United States work together to send a firm message to the Iranians that a development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable; energy supplies are important for India, and they're important for Pakistan. I fully understand that," the President said.
"But a country, which has been unwilling to adhere to treaties that it's agreed to, a country the President of which has said the destruction of Israel is in… part of foreign policy, a country which has not told the truth when it comes to whether they're enriching uranium, is a country that free nations need to deal with in a diplomatic way. And the best thing that the Iranians can hear is a unified message from all of us," he said.
Asked if at some particular date he will decide to take military action against Iran, Bush replied: "Diplomacy is our first option."
Commenting on the controversy over the publication of Prophet Mohammad's cartoons in European newspapers, the US President emphasised the importance of a free press but said: "I do not believe that people should use it as a pretext for violence... some are using the cartoons to achieve political ends."