On a visit to India after 28 years, former American President Jimmy Carter saw no threat to Asian peace or world peace from India’s intentions to acquire atomic energy sources to generate power, but is firm that New Delhi ought to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Though he has no authority in government to thwart the deal, Carter does not favour the Indo-US civil nuclear deal because, he said, there is need to discourage testing and development of nuclear weapons and the spread of fissile material.
Hastening to add that his concerns were global, not India-specific, Carter said, "any nation with nuclear weapons should be under the NPT. It is my hope that the NPT becomes universally acceptable," said the 82-year-old Nobel laureate, who was severely critical of the US administration’s handling of the North Korean nuclear issue.
Equally scathing about the (George W) Bush administration’s war on Iraq, which he described as a "terrible mistake," Carter said, "attacking Iraq was an interruption in the war on terror and lost the United States much international support. We cannot impose our own system of government on others using military power."
Acknowledging that Indo-US bilateral relations were probably better today than they have been at any time, including his tenure as President between 1977 and 1980, Carter said he hoped other aspects of the bilateral relationship would not be affected if the Indo-US civil nuclear deal fails to go through the US Congressional process.
In talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, Carter said he would discuss this and other matters that come up related to his ‘mission’ to build “homes for the poor” under the Habitat for Humanity scheme.
“India is an enlightened country, progressing very fast, and is no threat to world peace,” he said. “The extraordinary economic progress while maintaining its democratic traditions is enlightening and very impressive.” “India is emerging as a power in every way,” said the former US President, whose visit to develop a Haryana village (re-christened Carterpuri) in 1978 was then considered the epitome of bilateral cooperation.
Carter will travel to Mumbai on Saturday, spend a week as a volunteer, building houses in a Maharashtra village where his mother worked for the Peace Corps, before travelling to the tsunami-afflicted east coast of India to build more houses, for which he has collected 57 million dollars.
But before the Habitat scheme could get off the ground, in the early 1980’s, Carter told a select group of reporters, he had to give an undertaking in writing to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to say that their mission was not to “proselytize” people here.