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US dangles nuke sop with control rider

New Delhi, Nov. 20: The US has indicated that India could enjoy the privileges of the elite nuclear club if it strengthens legislation on export control and takes stricter steps to prevent proliferation of sensitive technology that meets the standards of existing international regimes.

This means that India could have access to dual-use and other sensitive technology from the West, particularly the US, without being a signatory of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty or other existing regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

But Delhi would have to work closely with Washington to make its existing laws effective and reassure the US that technologies provided to it are in safe hands and would not be passed on to a third country.

All countries barring the five nuclear countries — the US, the UK, France, Russia and China — have to given an undertaking that they are not pursuing a nuclear programme before they gain access to dual-use and other sophisticated technology. But India has so far refused to enter into any international obligation that would force it to destroy its nuclear weapons.

“We are aware that India is not a signatory to the existing non proliferation regimes. But it has a stake in it. India is working closely with the US to stop proliferation,” the US under-secretary for industry and security of commerce department, Ken Juster, said this afternoon. Juster was speaking at a function on Globalisation of Knowledge-Driven Industries organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Juster, who is here with his team to hold talks on co-operation in high-technology, also made it clear that the US was willing to strengthen co-operation with India on hi-technology to boost commerce between the two sides.

However, for this Delhi would have to strengthen its patents’ law and lower existing trade barriers, he said. If these steps were not taken, the US private sector would not be interested in investing in India, he said.

That both sides are eager for substantial progress on this front was evident as today’s was the fifth meeting between the two sides on co-operation in high-technology in a year.

Foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, who has led the Indian team in the talks, said both sides would have to strengthen co-operation “in a spirit of partnership” to prevent proliferation of sensitive technologies.

However, he argued that, “situated as India is in the arc of strategic proliferation, our understanding of the consequences of proliferation and our commitment to preventing it is second to none”.

Sibal’s assurance notwithstanding, Juster, who also addressed a press conference this evening, made it clear that “India has to perform treaty obligations”. He pointed out that the framework created by these regimes were “useful and consistent” with the policies of the US. India has long been denied access to nuclear and other sophisticated technology by the West.

After the May 1998 nuclear tests, there was renewed pressure on India to sign the non-proliferation treaty and dismantle its nuclear weapons programme. The guidelines of non-proliferation regimes like the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group prevent its members, including almost all major world players, from selling or providing any technology or equipment to a country like India that has not given up its nuclear programme.

As a result, Delhi has been facing major problems in acquiring technology or equipment even for its nuclear power plants.

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