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'Alliance with India more important than NPT'

A leading US newspaper has said that strategic ties should take precedence over the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 15:38 IST

Backing the India-US civil nuclear deal, a leading American newspaper has said the strategic alliance with India should take precedence over the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But India, in turn, must seek to sign a clearly defined nuclear cooperation agreement with Washington so that countries like Pakistan and China do not get the licence to continue proliferation, the Washington Post says in its February 26 editorial ahead of President George W Bush's visit to India beginning on March 1.

The NPT has not stopped countries from going nuclear, the Post points out "and it's not worth forgoing major prizes such as an Indian alliance in order to preserve it," the paper asserts.

"But a good nuclear deal with India could reduce the likelihood that Pakistan and others will scramble to build extra bombs. The Bush administration needs to tell its friends in India that the details of the deal matter -- to America's security and India's."

In the editorial titled 'Talking Nukes with India', the Post, in a departure from earlier analysis, supports the civilian nuclear cooperation deal with India but warns that Washington's "realignment" of relations from China to India, carries risks particularly on nuclear policy.

"As President Bush prepares to visit India, the question is whether he can cement the improvement in US-India ties while avoiding negative spill-over effects," the Post argues.

It says India has overcome the doubting Thomases with its vote alongside the US in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against Iran's nuclear programme.

But it points to lingering doubts over whether key nuclear reactors in India will be defined as military and thus be exempted from international inspections, something parts of the Washington establishment has been warning the Bush administration about.

The two countries have been trying to finalise details of the July 18 civil nuclear pact that would allow India access to previously barred nuclear technology and fuel. US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns was in New Delhi to work out the finer points of the deal before the arrival of Bush.

The paper says Bush needs to have a clear-cut plan that would assuage their concerns so that he can get the US Congress to support changes in legislation to make India an exception to the law that prohibits civilian nuclear cooperation with countries that have not signed the NPT.

Not putting those key reactors on the list, the Post contends, would leave India open to building its nuclear weapons which might spur Pakistan to build more deterrent nukes and would weaken Washington's arguments against China or Russia giving nuclear technology to their allies.

First Published: Feb 27, 2006 12:41 IST