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'Strong security rationale behind N-deal'
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington, DC | March 31, 2006 00:54 IST
In the midst of US Congress debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal, India on Thursday said there was a "strong security rationale" behind the pact and held out the bait of spin-offs of the country's expertise in reactor refurbishment, which could help revive global nuclear industry.
In an address at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran made it clear that India "cannot be a partner and a target" of international nuclear regime and brushed aside suggestions that the separation of military and civil nuclear facilities would open the possibility of massive increase in New Delhi's weapons programme.
"The issue that encapsulates the convergences of relations between the United States and India is that of the civilian nuclear energy arrangement and this initiative will determine for good reasons the direction of future ties between the two countries," he said.
"It has a strong security rationale as it would enable India to make a fuller contribution to global non-proliferation efforts," Saran said.
Saran spoke of the economic rationale and benefits of the nuclear agreement, pointing out the acceleration in India's progress will not only have dramatic anti-poverty consequences but would significantly strengthen global economy.
Pointing out that the accord had a technology component as well, he said, "Indian scientists now have much to bring to the table, especially in areas where they have established technology leads. Even in fields like reactor refurbishment, we are extremely innovative and competitive and our activities outside India can expedite the global revival of the nuclear industry."
Saran said India has made a commitment "to refrain from transferring enrichment and reprocessing technologies to nations that do not have them, and to support international efforts to limit their spread."
"But India cannot be a partner and a target at the same time. If there is an expectation that we should play a greater role, particularly in combating the twin threats of WMD proliferation and terrorism, then it is only reasonable that the energy requirements of a country with such strong credentials is recognised," the top Indian official said.
He brushed aside the argument, both in his prepared remarks as well as in the interactive session, that the separation plan opened the possibility of a massive increase in India's nuclear weapons programme.
"I would like to remind all of you of our record of responsibility, restraint and I would even say idealism - in this regard.
"We were reluctant to exercise our weapon option to begin with. Having felt compelled to do so, we remain committed to a credible minimum deterrent. If our posture so far has been one of restraint and responsibility not disputed even by our critics, there is no reason why we should suddenly change now," he said.
"Some aspersions have been cast on our technology control record. I would like to strongly underline that not only our non-proliferation record but even the export control record, that goes back to the 1984 MOU with USA, has been exemplary," Saran said.
Saran also rejected the view that making an exception by the US and NSG to cooperate with India, a non-signatory to NPT, in nuclear field would open the door for non-nuclear states to harbour atomic weapons ambitions.
"This is a false analogy. No other state has the responsible record that India does and is denied access to civil nuclear energy technology. Surely, a serial proliferator cannot warrant the same treatment as a law-abiding and responsible nation. It is for that reason that our case for greater energy access has garnered so much support," he said.
"To those who may still be weighing the merits of the nuclear understanding, I would urge them to think seriously: does it serve global security if India remains outside the non-proliferation system?
"Will India's rising demands for oil and attendant implications for global oil prices help the world economy? What would be the emission consequences of greater consumption of fossil fuels?" he remarked.
Saran raised and answered the question why the nuclear deal would have to be worked out if bilateral relations were progressing so well. "Some have argued that the relationship is doing quite well without the need to do more. May I point out that a nuclear technology denial regime has a larger restrictive implication across the entire technology spectrum.
"Some years ago, India faced difficulties in procuring a super-computer even for weather forecasting because of the nuclear driven export controls", he pointed out.
"The continuation of status quo, therefore, constitutes a major impediment to realise the full potential of our knowledge economy partnership that is so important for the future of our two countries."
Saran acknowledged that the nuclear deal has generated a debate in America as it has done back in India.
"We respect this debate, and indeed believe that our case will come out stronger after it is subjected to the rigorous scrutiny characteristic of democratic processes.
"I am confident that at the end of the day, it will be recognised that India has large energy needs and that its responsible record makes it a reliable partner for the United States and the international community."
The foreign secretary said enacting legislation to reflect policy changes is not an easy process in any polity.
"We, in India, appreciate that having ourselves gone through the painstaking process of creating the political consensus for the passage of export control legislation last year.
"The nuclear understanding has not been without controversy in India but responding to the vision of the relationship before us, we have demonstrated the ability to make difficult decisions, in the course of extraordinarily challenging and complex negotiations", Saran said.
"The issue of values is not an irrelevant one either as we need to ask ourselves whether the world would not be more secure if key technologies, operational experiences and skills reside in open societies like India," Saran said.