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N-row: Why Iran, and not Pak, asks India

The international community must focus not merely on recipient states but on supplier states as well.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2005 19:59 IST

Calling for "a new global consensus" on nuclear non-proliferation, India on Monday deplored double standards that have put Iran's nuclear programme under unflinching scrutiny while treating Pakistan's clandestine proliferation with kid gloves.

"Our own security interests have been seriously undermined by clandestine nuclear weapon programmes in our neighbourhood aided and abetted, or at the least selectively ignored, by some Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatories themselves," Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told a group of strategy experts and journalists in what was a major foreign policy address.

Saran's lecture, which was organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and the India Habitat Centre, outlined a new phase in India's foreign policy congruent with its emergence as an increasingly influential actor on the world stage and its recognition as a responsible nuclear power.

"In seeking clarity on such clandestine activities, the international community must focus not merely on recipient states but on supplier states as well; otherwise our global non-proliferation effort would be undermined by charges of motivated selectivity and discrimination," Saran said in a forthright espousal of India's views on the new non-proliferation regime.

"With respect to the Iran nuclear issue, we welcome Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in accounting for previously undeclared activities, but it is important that remaining issues, which involve the Pakistan-based AQ Khan network are satisfactorily clarified as well," he said.

The AQ Khan network refers to the nuclear black market run by the founder of Pakistan's nuclear programme, Dr AQ Khan, which was exposed a couple of years ago.

"We see no reason why there should be an insistence on personal interviews with Iranian scientists, but an exception granted to a man who has been accused of running a global nuclear Wal-Mart," he said, adding that India was hopeful of the resolution of the Iranian crisis through dialogue.

"We should avoid a divisive vote at the IAEA's next meeting in Vienna," he said.

Describing India as one of the "founding fathers" of the nuclear non-proliferation initiative, Saran predicted a robust future for the historic India-US civilian nuclear cooperation programme signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the US.

He expressed confidence that the US administration will fulfil its commitment to get the laws changed to allow full civilian nuclear energy cooperation between the two countries.

Saran added that India was enthused with the response of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in responding to India's needs for nuclear energy.

"On balance, we are pleased with the outcome of the discussions," Saran replied, when it was pointed out to him that some NSG members like Japan and Brazil objected to waivers to India at its meeting in Vienna last week.

Reinforcing India's status as a responsible nuclear power, Saran alluded to recent steps taken by India like a comprehensive weapons of mass destruction (WMD) export control legislation, harmonising of its export control lists with these incorporated in the NSG and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines and the refusal to allow transfer of reprocessing and enrichment technologies to third countries.

He also pointed out a slew of recent radical initiatives taken by India like the proposed separation of civilian and nuclear facilities and the negotiation of additional protocol with the IAEA to increase "the confidence of the international community in the robustness and effectiveness of our export control systems making us a more viable destination for advanced dual use technologies".

Listing cogent reasons for making an exception in case of India, Saran exhorted the international community to ask "whether the global non-proliferation regime is better with India inside the tent or outside".

Besides the emphasis on India's record in non-proliferation, the foreign secretary enunciated a radical vision of India as a global power, which must take a stand on major global issues of the time.

"India is poised today to enter a new phase in its foreign policy. We aspire to be a permanent member of the Security Council. We are demonstrating a growing capability to shoulder regional and global responsibilities."

"We cannot sit out the debates on the big issues of our times. Our interests demand a vigorous and articulate diplomatic effort that explains our position and advance our interests," Saran said in an obvious reference to India's controversial vote in favour of the IAEA resolution that paves the way for referring Iran to the Security Council.

First Published: Oct 24, 2005 16:00 IST