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Bush unveils Indo-US space, nuke plan

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | January 13, 2004 08:55 IST
Last Updated: January 13, 2004 10:39 IST

President George W Bush has announced that the United States and India would step up cooperation in non-military nuclear activities, civilian space programmes and technology trade and expand dialogue on missile defence.

In a statement released on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, on Monday, Bush said, "Cooperation in these areas will deepen the ties of commerce and friendship between our two nations, and will increase stability in Asia and beyond."

Bush said the proposed cooperation would progress through a series of reciprocal steps, including expanded engagement on nuclear regulatory and safety issues and missile defence, ways to enhance cooperation in peaceful uses of space technology and steps to create the appropriate environment for successful technology commerce.

"The expanded cooperation launched today is an important milestone in transforming the relationship between the United States and India.

"The vision of US-India strategic partnership that Prime Minister [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee and I share is now becoming a reality," Bush said.

He said the two sides would tighten restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

He said the "relationship is based increasingly on common values and common interests.

"We are working together to promote global peace and prosperity. We are partners in the war on terrorism and we are partners in controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them."

In a hastily arranged press conference at the state department just hours after Bush's statement, an official, who wished not to be identified, said this so-called "Glide Path" would not take place overnight.

He said -- and reiterated several times -- that the announcement would be contingent on India taking steps to address concerns, specially in the export control area.

"We will offer India expanded cooperation as India takes concrete steps to address our concerns, especially in the export control area. We also emphasise that we are not asking here for any changes in US domestic law or our international obligations.

"Similarly, this is not about diminishing in any way our concerns about India's nuclear weapons or domestic missile programmes. We have not said anything to support India's nuclear weapons or domestic missile programmes," he said.

He added that it is very clear "to us and I believe it's very clear to the Indians, what the distinction is between a civilian nuclear programme and a military programme".

Asked if all of these caveats implied that India's exports control safeguards were inadequate, the official replied, "I really can't speak for the Indians here. But I think for example, one of the things that we have had to do over these years is to sanction Indian companies that have taken high technology goods and exported them to Iraq for example -- to the previous regime.

"And so what we would like to see are laws and regulations that are put into place -- not by us but by the Indians for Indians -- which make that kind of thing impossible.

"We would like to see the regulations that exist today are implemented so that a year from now, there are regulations and implementations and a commitment by India on these issues so that sanctioning companies doesn't have to be used again.

"We see them attempting to take steps, attempting to enforce this law or that law, but in many cases, they can't finish the job."

However, he asserted that the US did not expect the process being put into place to break down "because it stitches together two very important desires of two very important countries".

Asked if Pakistan had expressed any apprehensions over the Indo-US cooperation, he said, "Not that's been reported to me."

He added that the US had offered a similar dialogue with Pakistan. "We like to have conversations on strategic stability with both India and Pakistan on missile defence."

The official denied that the announcement was "a reward" for India for the envisaged rapprochement with Pakistan and for agreeing to include Kashmir in the dialogue that is on the cards.

With Inputs from the Press Trust of India

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