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'Non-proliferation to gain from N-deal'

Nuke deal would elevate ties to heights never previously achieved, said the US.

india Updated: May 18, 2006 12:42 IST

Admitting that the Indo-US nuclear deal was a "real-world agreement" and was not "perfect", a senior US State Department official has asserted that the agreement would still be a "net gain for non-proliferation".

"I think we'd all be happy if India and Pakistan gave up their nuclear weapons and joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But it's not going to happen," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said.

"We went into this negotiation knowing the positions that India had taken all along. This is a real-world agreement. We don't claim it's perfect," he told lawmakers on the Asia-Pacific committee of the House International Relations Panel.

Debunking the notion that the US had given away "too much" in the agreement, Boucher claimed that the deal provided "a net gain for non-proliferation" as India had already taken steps to bring itself in "alignment with the international non-proliferation regime".

"They've improved their export control systems and brought their standards into alignment with the practices of the Nuclear Suppliers Group already. They have pledged to support negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty and have also begun their discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.

According to Boucher, civil nuclear cooperation with India would "elevate the US-India relationship to heights we have never previously achieved".

"It will secure their increasing conviction that there is solid support from the US government for long-term civil nuclear cooperation and thereby open the door to cooperation across the board," he added.

Noting that the "significance of the initiative should not be underestimated", the senior State Department official said that implementing it was a "top priority" for both countries.

The deal has "substantial benefits in terms of India's development" and would help provide clean energy for its economic development, Boucher said.

"We would like to have them get some of that energy in the form of nuclear power, particularly if they buy it from American firms, rather than having to go out into the international petroleum markets and oil and gas markets and try to buy all their energy, which just puts greater stress on energy prices worldwide," he said.

"At a time when some countries are tearing up their agreements and breaking their seals and kicking out the inspectors, we do think it's important that a major nation would bring itself closer and pledge to put two-thirds of their reactors under safeguards and increase that percentage over time," Boucher said.

Boucher noted that the nuclear deal was one of the most important aspects of America's strategic partnership with India.

"As Rice said during her hearing before the full committee early last month, this initiative is an historic strategic achievement that will advance energy security, further environmental protection, foster economic and technological development in both our countries, bolster international security, and strengthen the global non-proliferation regime," he said.

"Simply put, if we can do nuclear power, we can do anything together. The advantages of such a relationship for regional stability and for the future of over a billion people are many," Boucher said.