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Prioritise nuclear deal: US daily

Congress should recognise both merits of deal and setback that follows if deal is not passed, says Washington Times.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2006 21:42 IST

The Indo-US nuclear deal should be "a priority" of the Congress as it would make New Delhi "less inclined to enter into billion dollar energy deals" with Iran, a leading American daily said on Sunday.

In an editorial, the Washington Times also said that India has attained increasing prominence among world powers and, like the US, was "deeply involved in the struggle against terrorism," tragically emphasised by the Mumbai serial blasts.

It said the strong support the deal had in Congress, "bodes well for the important initiative which would allow the United States to sell the material necessary to construct civilian nuclear power plants and Congress should make this legislation a priority."

A greater supply of nuclear power would leave India less reliant on and "less inclined to enter into billion dollar energy deals with Iran," the daily said.

"The benefit that passing the nuclear deal with India would bring to the relationship, while substantial, does not overshadow the damage that would be done if this deal ends in a very public rejection. Congress should recognise both the merits of this deal and the setback that could come from not passing it," it added.

"Moving away from its Cold War policy of nonalignment, India has attained increasing prominence among world powers. In this new role, India is shaking off an outdated geopolitical model proving that it is not a country stuck between the Middle East and East Asia, but rather a player with significant importance to both regions. The United States and India share more than values," it said.

India's non-proliferation record is stellar, especially in comparison with neighboring Pakistan, the daily said.

And as India continues on the course that has made it one of the world's fastest-growing economies of the past two decades, increased trade will bring it even closer to the US, it said.

"One potential wedge that may come between the two countries is the competition for energy resources. India's appetite for energy will mirror its dramatic economic growth, which is, in and of itself, a compelling reason for Congress to prioritize the deal," the editorial argued.

"India... Has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); neither has it signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, although it has pledged not to test nuclear weapons. Superficially, these may seem like proliferation concerns, and reasons not to agree to a deal that will strike some as rewarding India," the Times noted going on to make the point that the bilateral initiative does not reward noncompliance.

"... It merely recognizes that India's nuclear programme has, since 1974, developed in isolation, and it seeks to correct that situation by bringing India's programme into the mainstream without relying on international agreements that India would not likely accept," the paper said.

The nuclear deal would, as Under Secretary of State R Nicholas Burns said while visiting India in March, "try to bring India into compliance actively, with the major international agreements that govern the disposition of nuclear materials... And nuclear energy."