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Analysts split over Indo-US nuke deal

Influential defence analysts on Wednesday differed over a controversial new civil nuclear energy deal with India.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 11:24 IST

Influential defence analysts on Wednesday differed over a controversial new civil nuclear energy deal with India, with one describing it, as a grave threat to non-proliferation efforts and another saying the problems it poses in this regard are "manageable."

Former Defence Secretary William Perry and a former top Pentagon aide, Ashton Carter, backed the agreement, which would give nuclear-armed India access to US and other foreign nuclear fuel and reactors for the first time in three decades.

But Robert Gallucci, a former top non-proliferation official at the State Department who negotiated a 1994 nuclear agreement with North Korea, urged the US Congress to reject the deal because it "trashes" the non-proliferation regime.

The three experts, who served in Democratic administrations, were among witnesses called to testify by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will play a key role in deciding whether the agreement at the heart of a new US-India relationship goes forward.

Carter, co-director of the Preventive Defence Project at Harvard University, said if its nuclear aspects are viewed without regard to the importance of forging new ties with India, "one must conclude that the deal was a very unbalanced one and a bad one for the United States."

"I judge the damage to the non-proliferation regime ... to be palpable but quite manageable," he said.

Perry, now senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, endorsed Carter's statement but urged India to take actions that could make the agreement stronger.

This includes cooperating with the United States and Europe in halting Iran's nuclear program, taking a key role in global efforts to end fissile material production, and limiting its nuclear arsenal to what New Delhi has called "minimal deterrence."

But Gallucci, now dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, said the proposed deal "will be too costly to the national security to be justified by the gain in relations with India."

The goal of non-proliferation would be destroyed by legitimising India's nuclear status, he said.

For the deal to take effect Congress must change US law and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group must alter its rules. The administration would like action in the next few months but a senior US official recently said it may take longer because of congressional concerns.

India has been barred from obtaining foreign nuclear technology because it developed and tested nuclear weapons and did not sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

First Published: Apr 27, 2006 11:24 IST