US ambassador presses case for Indo-US N-deal

The US ambassador to India is pressing the Bush administration, the case that a civilian nuclear cooperation pact with India will help in non-proliferation.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2006 04:56 IST

The US ambassador to India returned to Washington to press the Bush administration case that a civilian nuclear cooperation pact with India now being considered by the US Congress will strengthen the world's non-proliferation system.

Ambassador David Mulford told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute think tank on Monday that India regards its budding strategic relationship with the United States as the most important diplomatic initiative of the past 50 years. And the civilian nuclear agreement, he said, is the cornerstone.

"This relationship in coming years will matter to us like few others," Mulford said. "Going forward, do we really want India outside the world's nuclear non-proliferation system, its gifted scientific community and political leadership confined to ... isolation? I think not. It is time to accept India's reality and move on."

Lawmakers in the US Congress are currently considering a pact that would send nuclear fuel and technology to India in return for international inspections and safeguards at certain nuclear reactors.

Critics worry the plan would undermine efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and might boost India's nuclear arsenal. Mulford is one of a string of Indian and US officials to campaign for the plan in Washington in recent weeks. Supporters say it would help satisfy the massive energy needs of a country, India that has always managed its nuclear technologies responsibly.

For the pact to become a reality, however, Congress must exempt India from US laws that restrict trade with countries, such as India, that have not submitted to full nuclear inspections. When Mulford was asked after his speech when Congress might act on the agreement, he said the hope "is to move it sooner rather than later; I think that means for most people before September." "Every effort is being made to move it quickly," he said. But, he added, "It will be a time consuming exercise."

First Published: Apr 25, 2006 04:56 IST