The United States has said that the US-Indo pact on civil nuclear co-operation was one of Bush administration’s “top foreign and legislative priorities”, brushing aside calls by some democrats to link it with New Delhi’s support to American policies on strategic issues.
Testifying before the House Committee on International Relations on thursday, under secretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns said the deal was a “major Presidential initiative” aimed at deepening bilateral ties.
India and the US signed the deal on civil nuclear co-operation during Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US in July. The agreement will address India’s energy needs, assign it same responsibilities and practices and bring New Delhi into the global non-proliferation order, he said.
“This is a major Presidential initiative, one that seeks to bring about full civil nuclear energy co-operation between the United States and India,” he said.
The pact could be implemented only after Congress gives its approval for making certain changes in the American laws to allow the transfer of technology. “I believe it is a good and sound agreement that will have the effect of progressively integrating India into the global non-proliferation order,” Burns, who negotiated the pact with India, said.
“We sought this agreement because India’s nuclear weapons programme and its status outside the non-proliferation regime has proven to be a long-standing stumbling block to enhanced US-India relations, as well as a problem for the global non-proliferation regimes.
“The initiative, announced by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh, is intended to deepen the bilateral partnership, address India’s energy needs, and advance international non-proliferation norms and practices,” he said.
“Many do not realise that India is one of the few developing countries that possesses full competency over all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, and is in fact pursuing a variety of advanced nuclear technologies, yet it remains—as it has since 1967—outside the global regime,” Burns said.
“Although India has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting fissile materials and nuclear technology more generally, it is in both Indian and American interests that New Delhi’s isolation be brought to an end and that India be made part of a stable global non-proliferation order,” he added.
He was speaking after Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the Committee and some others criticised India’s stand on the Iranian nuclear issue.
“New Delhi must understand how important their co-operation is and support is for US initiatives to counter the nuclear threat from Iran,” Lantos said.
He also flayed external affairs minister K Natwar Singh’s reported statement that he is against the Iranian nuclear issue being referred to the Security Council. However, Burns said he was not aware of the statement made by Singh.