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'India can test, but at a very high price'

The daily quotes an unnamed senior administration official, who says the whole system is stacked against testing.
IANS | By Arun Kumar, Washington
UPDATED ON JUL 29, 2007 02:12 AM IST

Under the India-US civil nuclear deal, Washington cannot guarantee that India will refrain from testing a nuclear weapon but it would pay a very high price if it did, says a US daily.

"The whole system is stacked against testing," an unnamed "senior administration official familiar with negotiations" was cited as saying by the Washington Post on Saturday.

"The American president would have the right to ask for return of any technology. That's a huge penalty to pay. India would also have to think about the reaction from the Europeans and other suppliers of nuclear technology," the official added.

In a 'News Analysis' the influential New York Times too suggested that in its nuclear deal with India, Washington appeared to have made more concessions.

"The agreement, which was forged during five rounds of negotiations, requires India to separate its civilian nuclear power reactors and open them to international inspections. But in the end it was the United States that appeared to make more concessions," it said.

"India stuck fast to its demand to be able to reprocess spent fuel from the reactors on the civilian side, which had raised concerns in Washington about opportunities to produce weapons-grade plutonium for India's military arsenal," it said.

"At the very least, the Bush administration should not make it easier for New Delhi to resume nuclear testing and to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons," the daily said citing Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Washington-based Henry L Stimson Centre.

Some critics of the deal, led by Edward J Markey, a Democrat member of US House of Representatives, have vowed to try to defeat it, the Times said. "But it appears unlikely that they will muster the votes, especially in an election year when Indian-Americans are courted by both parties."

Other critics cited by the Washington Post suggest the deal sets a bad example because India will win access to US technology without complying with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows cooperation on nuclear energy only with those countries that pledge not to develop nuclear weapons.

"This deal is a complete capitulation on existing US laws..." said Joseph Cirincione, a non-proliferation expert with the Centre for American Progress cited by the Post.

"It helps India reprocess fuel from a reactor to produce plutonium, which could be used in bombs, and it dilutes strict conditions that Congress had placed on aid should India test a nuclear weapon again. It's not exactly a green light for expanding India's nuclear weapons programme, but it's at least a yellow."

Daryl G Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, refuted US claims that the deal will bring India into the nuclear mainstream, the Post said.

"We're giving India rights and privileges not afforded by other non-nuclear states, and we're not holding India to the same standards expected of a nuclear weapons state," he was quoted as saying.

Howard L Berman, a senior Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he and several lawmakers were "disturbed" by the deal.

"We have said, 'You're not going to get anything if you resume nuclear testing.' But now we're making an agreement that India will get a fuel supply even if it resumes testing."

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