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'Indo-US nuclear deal not to fuel arms race in South Asia'

An US official assures lawmakers in his country that agreement would not fuel an arm race in South Asia.
PTI | By HT Correspondent
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2007 09:57 AM IST

Stressing on the importance of Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, a senior US official has assured lawmakers in his country that the agreement would not in any way fuel an arms race in South Asia.

"I appreciate the effort the Congress put into passing the legislation. It was landmark legislation and, we think, very important, very well crafted in terms of letting the president and the Prime Minister move forward in a way that is prudent and in a way that meets their own expectations that they put down when they negotiated this," Assistant Secretary of South and Central Asia Richard Boucher told lawmakers at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

"There have been a lot of studies and a lot of statements you heard them all during the debate about what this would do for India's military programmes, whether it would do anything at all. I still believe it wouldn't; I don't think the incentives are there," he said.

"As far as the potential for an arms race in the region, we've talked quite clearly to both India and Pakistan. Both of them tell us they don't want to see an arms race; they have no intention of starting one. And indeed, as you yourself noted, they're not only talking, they're making a lot of progress," the senior official added.

"On the issue of military versus civilian, the essence of the deal was a separation between the two and a separation that can be maintained and will be maintained by the Indians based on their decisions and policy, but also in cooperation with some of these international agreements."

"But indeed, there are a series of safeguards that will be negotiated between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency. That is one piece of the package that will be looked at, will be ready for the Congress to look at when we ask you to vote again on finalising the deal.

"We'll have a standard bilateral agreement between the United States and India that has the provisions required by law to make sure that there is adequate legal basis for our cooperation. Congress will get a chance to look at that as well, when it comes down to it," he added.

In his prepared remarks to the Committee, Boucher went beyond the civilian nuclear deal to speak of the kind of issues going on between the two countries, including consultations on the Doha Round expressing confidence that the strategic relationship will deepen and grow.

"Beyond the civil nuclear agreement, we're building a even stronger relationship with India in a whole host of areas. We're deepening our security ties. We're expanding our economic and business cooperations. We're working with India in the Doha Development Round negotiations," he said.

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