Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday embarked on a visit to the US to attend the Nuclear Security Summit where he is expected to pitch for firm response to the challenges of proliferation and possibility of terrorists gaining access to nuclear material.
During the eight-day visit, Singh will also travel to Brazil to attend the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) and India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Summits, where Iran's controversial nuclear programme and the impending UN sanctions would be among the key issues of discussions.
In the first leg of the tour, Singh will be in Washington for four days during which he will attend the two-day Nuclear Security Summit on April 12 and 13 and meet US President Barack Obama and some other world leaders.
The Summit, an initiative of Obama, will focus on dangers posed by clandestine proliferation and illicit trafficking of nuclear material and the possibility of terrorists acquiring atomic material.
Singh is expected to share India's apprehensions about terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The threat is greater in Pakistan, where nuclear material is believed to be not too safe.
Ahead of his visit, the Prime Minister said nuclear terrorism and proliferation of sensitive technologies are "legitimate concerns" which require "firm responses".
He emphasised the need for "highest standards of security" in the nuclear field to reinforce public faith in the benefit of atomic science.
"India welcomes President Obama's initiative to hold a Summit on Nuclear Security," said Singh, who will join leaders of 42 other countries in discussing ways to strengthen global initiatives for securing nuclear material and installations amid concerns of terrorists gaining access to these.
Singh said he expected the Summit to focus on nuclear terrorism and proliferation of sensitive nuclear materials and technologies.
"These are legitimate concerns which require firm responses," the Prime Minister said.
Noting that nuclear energy was poised to play a growing role in addressing the developmental challenges of the present times, he said, "This will be possible only if we, as individual nations, and as a global community ensure the highest standards of security which reinforce public faith in the benefits of nuclear science."
He pointed out that India was an important stakeholder in this global endeavour. Talking about India's well developed and indigenous nuclear energy programme, which dates back six decades, Singh said, "We have an impeccable record of security, safety and non-proliferation which reflects in our conduct as a responsible nuclear power."
The Prime Minister underlined that India has been a consistent advocate of complete and universal global nuclear disarmament.
"We were among the first countries in the world to call for a world free of nuclear weapons. I am encouraged by the fact that this approach is finding greater resonance today," he said, adding India will continue to call for more meaningful progress in this direction.
At the Summit, Singh is expected to underline the need for greater impetus to securing nuclear material through physical protection and legal mechanisms.
Singh is also likely to propose setting up of an International Nuclear Safety Centre in India. India sees the Summit and its associated preparatory process as important elements in strengthening international resolve to cooperate on nuclear security and supporting the expanded use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
"This will be to India's benefit given our concerns on terrorism as well as our interest in the expansion of civil nuclear energy," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said a few days back while talking about the upcoming Summit.
During his stay in Washington, Singh will meet Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
At BRIC and IBSA Summits, Iran's controversial nuclear programme and the impending UN sanctions would be among the key issues of discussions.
"These groupings reflect the growing role of emerging economies in shaping the global economic order," the Prime Minister said.
He said the IBSA process has come of age as it today encompasses a wide range of activities which supplement the excellent bilateral relations that India enjoys with each of these countries.
"Our coordination on important international issues has expanded, and our trilateral cooperation is beginning to bear fruit in many sectors," the Prime Minister said.
The BRIC countries are among the largest and fastest growing economies with rich human and material resources. They represent the future of the global economic landscape.
"We have a high stake in the revival of the global economy, an open trading system, energy security, combating climate change and addressing non-traditional threats to international security," he said.
Countries like Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela have not been invited for the Summit in Washington. However, Iran's nuclear issue and the controversy surrounding it will be discussed under the BRIC format in Brasilia by Singh, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Brazilian President Lula da Silva.
Iran will be part of "focused agenda" of the BRIC Summit for the first time, said Parbati Sen Vyas, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs.