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India's N-establishment a 'hurdle'

A US expert has termed India's nuclear establishment as a "major obstacle" to the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 13:15 IST

A top US expert has termed the Indian nuclear establishment's "set way of doing things" as a "major obstacle" to reaching a civil nuclear energy agreement between the two countries before US President George W Bush's visit here in early March.

"The Indian nuclear establishment is not comfortable with the civil nuclear energy deal because it changes things for them," said Dennis Kux, a former US diplomat and an expert on India-US relations.

"The separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities poses a big problem for them. They are worried and nervous because it asks them to change their set pattern of working, which they have been used to for the last three decades," Kux said in an interview.

He also sought to allay anxieties about the impact the deal will have on India's strategic programme. "The US is not trying to cap India's strategic programme or affect its minimum credible deterrence. Let's be clear about that."

Kux was reacting to Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar's contention that New Delhi was not ready to place its fast breeder reactor programme in the civilian list as it would impinge on its strategic programme.

Kux, a senior policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, worked as South Asia specialist with the State Department for over three decades and his views are considered influential in formulating the US policy towards the region.

His acclaimed India and the US, 1941-91: Estranged Democracies chronicles the nature of relations between the world's largest democracy and the most powerful during the Cold War period.

Alluding to difficult negotiations between the two sides on New Delhi's separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities, Kux stressed on the "seriousness" of the Bush administration in pushing the deal through Congress and the "extra political capital" it was willing to invest to make the deal real.

"The administration will push very hard to get the deal through the US Congress. This is the last psychological barrier that is waiting to be dismantled," Kux said.

He also took potshots at the Left's criticism of nuclear deal agreed to in principle in July 2005 but still to be negotiated in detail, saying their reservations stem more from their dislike of the US than objective facts.

Kux struck an optimistic note on Bush's India visit, which, he said, will give a big push to the transformation of relations between the hitherto estranged democracies.

"Even if the nuclear agreement doesn't work out by that time, the very fact of Bush coming here despite all the other big issues on his agenda like Iraq will make a big difference to India-US relations.

"The US is trying to help India, and in the big picture this does help India. The US is trying to reach a reasonable agreement. It's trying to accommodate India's civil nuclear energy aspirations," he said while underlining the point that there was broad bipartisan support for the nuclear deal.

"The deal, above all, gives India nuclear power status by finding a way to bring India into the international nuclear system," said the veteran South Asia specialist.

"Economic reforms brought India firmly into the international economic system. The nuclear deal will bring India into the global civil nuclear energy market," he said.

First Published: Feb 10, 2006 10:51 IST