| Singh and Blair in the garden of a hotel in Udaipur. (AFP)
New Delhi, Sept. 8: Britain has promised to bring about the required changes in policy and play an active role in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group to give India access to civilian nuclear energy and other dual-use technologies.
The assurance came after a discussion between Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, at the retreat in Udaipur where the two met today along with their delegations.
“Britain has agreed to cooperate in India’s civilian nuclear energy sector and make a collective effort to ensure India’s energy security,” Singh said at a joint news conference addressed by the two leaders later in the day at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.
Yesterday, the European Union agreed to help India meet its energy needs. These include Delhi’s quest for access to “clean energy”, particularly civilian nuclear energy.
India and the US have already entered into an agreement for cooperation in civilian nuclear energy. The Bush administration has started the process of getting the deal approved by the US Congress. Many other western countries, including the UK, will also have to take steps both domestically and at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group to ensure that India gets access to these technologies.
Britain had adopted a tough policy in 2002 ' at the height of the India-Pakistan tensions ' and sought to prevent Delhi’s access to civilian nuclear or dual-use technology. However, with the peace process between Delhi and Islamabad firmly in place, the British government has started looking at steps to remove the impediments and help India play the role of a responsible nuclear power.
A British official explained that, unlike the US, the UK does not have to bring about amendments to its domestic law. “We had made a policy statement. Now we just need to withdraw that statement,” he said.
With the US having agreed to cooperate with India in this field, there is a sense of urgency now among other key players, especially those who are looking at a share of the Indian civilian nuclear energy market, to be in line with the process started by Delhi and Washington.
Singh and Blair had an exclusive one-to-one meeting in Udaipur this afternoon before they allowed other delegation members to join them. The close interaction between the two Prime Ministers allowed them to have a better understanding of each other’s concerns and agree on the common positions from which both countries can benefit.
Global terrorism and “management of global interdependence” were two other key areas which the two Prime Ministers highlighted after their discussions. Both leaders stressed the need to defeat global terrorism while clarifying that any attempt to equate it with Islam was only a “perverted understanding” of the religion.