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Saran links nuke deal to oil prices

The Foreign Secretary's views echo some of the arguments advanced by President Bush in favour of the pact.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, Washington
UPDATED ON APR 01, 2006 02:56 AM IST

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran has cast the nuclear deal with the US in context of environmental consequences of oil consumption.

Saran's views echoes some of the arguments advanced by President George W Bush in favour of the pact.

"Will India's rising demands for oil and attendant implications for global oil prices help the world economy? What would be the emission consequences of greater consumption of fossil fuels?" Saran asked during a speech at the conservative think tanks Heritage Foundation on Thursday.

Saran was reflecting the views expressed by Bush about the consequences of a rapidly growing Indian economy using only oil to power its energy needs.

The US president too has frequently spoken about the consequences on the world economy of the giant economies of India and China surviving entirely on oil as an energy source.

Saran used the address as a means to answer the serious misgivings among the critics of the nuclear deal, the latest being former president Jimmy Carter who described it as "dangerous" in an article in The Washington Post.

"I am, of course, aware that the nuclear initiative has been the subject of vigorous debate, as it has been back home. We respect this debate, and indeed believe that our case will come out stronger after it is subjected to the rigorous scrutiny characteristic of democratic processes.

"I am confident that at the end of the day, it will be recognised that India has large energy needs and that its responsible record makes it a reliable partner for the United States and the international community," he said.

"The question has been asked why, if Indo-US relations have progressed so well, is it necessary to undertake this particular initiative. Some have argued that the relationship is doing quite well without the need to do more. May I point out that a nuclear technology denial regime has a larger restrictive implication across the entire technology spectrum.

"Some years ago, India faced difficulties in procuring a super-computer even for weather forecasting because of the nuclear driven export controls. The continuation of the status quo, therefore, constitutes a major impediment to realise the full potential of our knowledge economy partnership that is so important to the future of our two countries," he said.

Saran's three-day visit, which has been described as 'normal', comes amid some vigorous lobbying on Capitol Hill by the Bush administration's point man, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns.

With a large majority of Congress members and Senators remaining undecided on whether to support the bill proposing to amend US laws to make the deal effective, work is cut out for the administration.

One of the apprehensions expressed by the deal's opponents is that the deal would allow India the flexibility to produce a larger number of nuclear weapons. Saran answered that as well.

"There have been comments that our separation plan leaves open the possibility of a massive increase in our nuclear weapons programme. I would like to remind all of you of our record of responsibility, restraint - and I would even say idealism - in this regard.

"We were reluctant to exercise our nuclear weapon option to begin with. Having felt compelled to do so, we remain committed to a credible minimum deterrent," he said.

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