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Rediff.com  » News » Once fierce critic, now Tauscher in-charge of N-deal

Once fierce critic, now Tauscher in-charge of N-deal

April 21, 2010 08:19 IST

When she served in the United States Congress, Democrat Ellen Tauscher was one of the most vehement critics of the Indo-United States civilian nuclear deal.

She not only led the unsuccessful effort to torpedo the deal in the US House of Representatives, but with the likes of Congressman Ed Markey, also a Democrat, introduced several killer amendments to the legislation to compel India meet certain stringent requirements as a condition to provide India with an exemption -- despite being a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- to be eligible to US nuclear technology.

But today, as a senior Obama Administration official, as irony would have it, charged with operationalising the deal, Tauscher says she is committed to the President's pledge to consummate the deal and work towards its full implementation.

Appearing at the Foreign Press Center for the first time Tuesday, Tauscher, who is now the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, asked about her volte-face, said, "Congresswoman Tauscher and Under Secretary Tauscher act by the same body but not in the same time. And what I did in Congress was one thing, and I will remind you that the resolution that I opposed passed."

"And, I get quite used to accepting when things pass and letting them go on," she added.

Tauscher said, "As under secretary, I obviously have some responsibility to implement the agreement between our two countries. And, I am very honored to have been in India late last year, met with my counterpart, Foreign Secretary (Nirupama) Rao. And, you know, we have a very vibrant and very significant relationship with India."

Asked if with the landmark START (Strategic Arms Reductions Talks) treaty with Russia where both countries have agreed to significantly prune their respective nuclear arsenals, led the administration to believe it's also time for India and Pakistan to cut down their nuclear arsenal or freeze their development of additional nuclear weapons, Tauscher was circumspect.

"I will quote the President on nuclear weapons," she said, and noted that "President Obama has an ambition for the world, that it will be a world free of nuclear weapons. We in the United States are taking our part."

Tauscher said, "We have this historic agreement with Russia, and we have obviously a Nuclear Posture Review where the President has diminished the role of nuclear weapons in our force posture."

She also said, "We also have a nuclear negative security assurance that makes clear that countries that are non-nuclear weapons states, that are in compliance with their Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations, will not be threatened or targeted with nuclear strikes by the United States."

"So, I think that we here in the administration are very clear what our positions are. And, what I did in the Congress is something in the past," Tauscher said.

Earlier, in her opening remarks, she said on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, "We have no specific timeline for its consideration by the Senate, but we are doing all the analysis necessary to determine how to best move the treaty forward."

"We expect the release of the National Academy of Science study reviewing key technical issues underlying the CTBT to be released shortly," he added.

Tauscher also noted that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference slated for next month, "is not about any one country."

"It's all about Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty members and our collective responsibility to prevent the proliferation of dangerous and vulnerable nuclear material and technology."

Tauscher asserted that "we are serious about doing our part to revitalize the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime, and we are working with others to achieve that goal as well."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC