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'N-weapons programme to continue'

Envoy to US Ronen Sen says N-deal is to meet India's energy needs and is not related to proliferation or arms control.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 11:44 IST
Washington

India's strategic weapons programme will continue with or without the nuclear agreement with the United States, says Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen.

The nuclear agreement is basically for meeting India's energy needs and is not something related to security or proliferation or arms control, he said in an interview with North Carolina Public Radio during a visit to the southern state's 'Research Triangle'.

Allaying US concerns about selling nuclear technology to a country that had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Sen pointed out that India did not need any particular technology from the United States.

This was so because in terms of nuclear fuel cycle activities, India was one of the first five-six countries to have developed full nuclear fuel cycle capability.

In fact, India set up a nuclear reactor on its own much before China or Japan, he said.

"So if you talk about that in relation to the strategic programme or weapons programme, this agreement has nothing to do with that. The weapons programme or the strategic programme will continue with or without the agreement," Sen said.

At the same time, India shares US concerns about proliferation as it had not one but two nuclear neighbours - China and Pakistan - with one of whom it has an unresolved territorial issue.

It has also been a target of terrorism and had in fact suffered more from terrorism than any other country.

"Right next to us is the biggest concentration of terrorists. We are also adjacent to an area from where the biggest proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has taken place. So this is an issue that is of direct concern to us," Sen said without naming any country.

Asked whether there could be third party transfers of nuclear technology to a country like Iran given India's growing needs for energy, the Indian envoy replied with an emphatic "absolutely not."

India had faced every possible challenge a country could face right from political assassinations starting with that of Mahatma Gandhi, natural disasters of unimaginable magnitude, economic crises, border conflicts and of late it has been the biggest victim of terrorism.

Yet, India has a track record in non-proliferation that is better than in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), better than NPT, better than Western Europe and certainly better than most countries, he said pointing out that the violations one talks about are from countries which are signatories to NPT.

What India needs is commercial investments in the nuclear energy sector, both from Indian and foreign private sector, so that government can spend its scarce funds on areas like education, primary health care, child nutrition and rural infrastructure, Sen said.

As both India and US are concerned about rising energy prices affecting their economies, they can collaborate not in just energy security, but also on developing alternative energy technologies which are more environmental friendly, he said adding, "We have a vital stake in it."

India was looking for collaboration with US not only in information technology, but also in nanotechnology and biotechnology that has a huge potential for research and development.

They had already launched an Agricultural Knowledge Initiative with an investment of $100 million in three years to boost agricultural production.

The government needs to focus on rural areas' infrastructure as more than 40 per cent of agricultural production was simply wasted and only two per cent was processed.

All weather roads connecting villages with production centres and cold chains could double farmers' income in no time.

India was not too concerned about its trade deficit with its exports 30 per cent less than imports. Instead of trying to artificially balance its trade, India is looking for mutually beneficial partnerships on the principle that "to win some, you lose some," Sen said.