| Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush wave from the balcony of the White House with their wives Gursharan Kaur and Laura Bush after an arrival ceremony on Monday. (AFP)
Washington, July 18: In a step that puts India in an exclusive international league, the US has agreed to recognise the country as a nuclear weapons power.
It said India was “a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology” and that the country “should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states”.
This clears the way for Indo-US cooperation in civilian nuclear energy, including fuel for the Tarapur Atomic Power Plant. To enable this process, President George W. Bush has committed to seek agreement with the US Congress to change the requisite laws and policies.
In a joint statement issued here today, the US also committed itself to “work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India, including, but not limited to, expeditious consideration of fuel supplies for safeguarded nuclear reactors at Tarapur”.
That the fuel for Tarapur may not come from the US but perhaps from Russia or elsewhere was indicated by the joint statement. The US would “encourage its partners to also consider this request”, it said.
On its part, India has agreed to certain obligations. It has agreed “to assume the same responsibilities and practices and acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology, such as the Untied States”.
This would entail the following actions on the part of New Delhi: identifying and separating civilian and military nuclear facilities with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); putting its civilian facilities under IAEA safeguards; and continuing its unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests.
Besides, India will have to work with the US on implementing the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, refrain from transferring uranium enrichment and reprocessing technology to states that do not have them and support international efforts in this regard.
India has agreed to take necessary steps to secure nuclear materials and technology through comprehensive export control legislation and by adhering to the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group guidelines. India will also sign an additional protocol on its civilian nuclear facilities.
If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted more, he got that too. Bush reaffirmed the US policy on the “sanctity of the Line of Control” in Jammu and Kashmir. This is implicit backing of the Indian negotiating posture with Pakistan that any settlement of the Kashmir issue will not entail any territorial change.
That there was positive news in the offing on the nuclear front was indicated by Singh when he said in his White House joint press conference with Bush that the civilian nuclear issue had been resolved in a manner that gave him “great satisfaction”.
The two countries have also decided to set up a civil nuclear working group to foster exchanges between the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of the US and India’s Department of Atomic Energy and its Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
The working group would address the issue of “each country’s peaceful nuclear energy-related initiatives, including national practices, research interests, approaches to regulatory oversight (American for supervision) and views of the role of nuclear energy in meeting global energy requirements”.
India has been keen to join the International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor (ITER). Now India will get US support for this venture.
In the joint press conference held in the East Room of the White House, Singh thanked Bush for his “leadership and personal role” in achieving “a resolution” of this issue. Bush reciprocated by describing the Prime Minister as a man whose vision he applauded and who was committed to “peace and liberty”.