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Request for N-separation not unrealistic: Bush

Appreciating PM Manmohan Singh, the US President said there is a spirit of goodwill and cooperation between the two countries.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 10:32 IST

As India and the US continued intense talks to conclude the nuclear deal, President George W Bush has expressed hope that an agreement would be reached on the separation issue during his visit to New Delhi next week, observing that it is not an "unrealistic request".

He emphasised the importance of encouraging and aiding India in the civilian nuclear programme, saying development of alternative energy sources in the country would enable a check on rising oil prices.

"First things first is to go to India and hopefully reach an agreement on separation, and then bring that agreement back and start selling it to the Congress," Bush, who embarks on a three-day visit to India from March 1, told two Indian journalists in Washington.

"But we can't bring anything back until we have the agreement," he said adding "that's happening now."

Appreciating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his "courage" in "laying out a way forward" by signing with him the nuclear deal on July 18 last year, the US President said "there is a spirit of goodwill and cooperation (between the two countries).

During the interaction, Bush spoke on various issues like the need for a solution to the Kashmir issue that will be acceptable to all, including people of the state, India's candidature for permanent membership of UN Security Council, and Iran's nuclear programme.

Talking about the separation of civilian and military nuclear programmes to be undertaken by India, Bush said "this will be confidence-building measure that we don't believe is an unrealistic request."

Noting that the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and IAEA would have to endorse the deal, he said it is "in India's interest to do so (separation), as it pertains to civilian nuclear power industry. It will give confidence to people. It will make it easier for the US to work with India."

Asked whether he recognised India as a responsible nuclear nation, Bush said "I do, particularly when they signed the IAEA safeguards. And they have a separation between their military and their civilian nuclear parts of their government."

It was in America's interest to encourage India and aid it in its development of a civilian nuclear power programme, he told Indian journalists.

"The American people are beginning to see high prices of energy, but so are the Indian people. And the reason why is, is that there's growing economies - ours, India's, China's - which is adding to global demand for energy," he said, adding the "demand is outstripping supply and then what happens, you see price."

He said one way to help deal with the price issue in America and India is to develop alternative ways to power homes and businesses, as well as automobiles.

The US President said he was in favour of lifting restrictions on visas for highly qualified persons wanting to come to America but did not mention specifically the H1B programme under which the administration is trying to have the caps set by Congress increased.

Referring to Iran, Bush said with nuclear weapons, the country "will destabilise the world" and stressed that "those of us who are for peace and stability must work in concert (to prevent it from acquiring the nuclear weapons)."

He said he will discuss the issue "carefully" with Singh.

"There is a consensus in the world and that consensus is that an Iranian government that has declared that Israel shouldn't exist, for example, and if it were to have a nuclear weapon, would be danger to all of us. And I will continue to make that point with the Prime Minister."

Asked about nuclear proliferation originating from Pakistan, particularly AQ Khan, the US President said the network was exposed by the US and Britain.

"And we, of course, want to know as much about the AQ Khan network as possible," he said, adding "had it not been for the US intelligence, coupled with British intelligence, this network never would have been exposed."

Queried why the US was not backing India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council if India's credentials were so good, Bush said "we support a UN Security Council reform. But we think it ought to happen after other institutions within the UN become reformed."

"We have said to all parties concerned, I fully understand the Indian position, just like other nations, that we will take your case under consideration. But first things first."

First Published: Feb 24, 2006 10:32 IST