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Saran takes on NPT lobby

The Foreign Secretary took the US?s non-proliferation pundits head-on, reports S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2006 04:36 IST

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran on Thursday took the US’s non-proliferation pundits head-on and sought to demolish the series of arguments advanced by them in recent weeks to derail the Indo-US nuclear deal.

In the course of an address to the Heritage Foundation, Washington’s foremost conservative think tank, Saran came up with a point-by-point rebuttal to make the case that the nuke deal neither weakens the non-proliferation regime nor lets India an opportunity to build up its arsenal in a big way. 
 
“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 commented. 
 
“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,” he said.
 
Delivering the address before proceeding to Capitol Hill for a series of meetings with key lawmakers, Saran termed it “a false analogy” to hold forth that making an exception for India would weaken the non-proliferation regime and encourage other non-nuclear states that may harbour weapons ambitions.
 
During a Q&A that followed, Saran said any legislation that emerges from the US Congress should be in line with “the parameters of understanding” reached between the two governments. “If it’s within bounds, we won’t have a problem,” he said while responding to a question on the possibility of Congress seeking conditions to implement the deal. He, however, hastened to add that one would have to see precisely what emerges. 
 
Turning to those still weighing the merits of the nuclear understanding, Saran posed: “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 dwelt on the commitment India has made to refrain from transferring enrichment and reprocessing technologies to nations that do not have them, adding: But India cannot be a partner and a target at the same time."
 
Asked to comment on the possibility of an extraordinarily long haul for the nuke deal legislation in Congress, he said India, being a democracy, was not surprised that there should be an extended debate with doubts being raised. He then went on to say:  “We believe we have satisfactory answers to reservations (being expressed).”
 
Disagreeing with those claiming that India has succeeded in extracting a lot more in the bargain, Saran commented: “Our US interlocutors have been tough negotiators and the deal that we finalized on March 2, 2006 has been a fair one.”
 
"I hope that when the Congress examines this issue, they will have before them a vision of the scope and breadth of our possible relationship – one based on the congruence of principles and pragmatism that our Prime Minister has articulated – and will link that to the nuclear agreement,” Saran said.