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Kapil Sibal defends keeping military reactors off limits of IAEA

Written by: Staff

Washington, Apr 7 (UNI) Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal strongly defended India's decision to designate eight of its 22 nuclear reactors for military purposes and keep them off limits of the IAEA safeguards, saying it needed nuclear weapons due to regional constraints.

India has committed itself to never launch a first-strike nuclear attack, but it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself, the Minister said in an oblique reference to its nuclear-powered neighbours Pakistan and China.

''It would be very unfair on India to say that you shouldn't bother about your security concerns and put all your nuclear plants under safeguards,'' he said.

''Our security concerns are defensive in nature, not offensive,'' Mr Sibal told the Council on Foreign Relations here last night.

Referring to India's ''impeccable non-proliferation record,'' he said India has abided by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) even though it has not signed it.

''If our record as being a country outside the NPT is better than the record of countries that are part of the NPT, I don't see how anybody can object to our being concerned about our security,'' he said.

Under the Indo-US civilian nuclear initiative, India will get sensitive American nuclear technology and equipment in exchange for its agreeing to open 14 of its civil nuclear facilities for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections. India's eight military facilities, however, would be off-limits under a separation plan it presented to the US as part of the deal.

In a major policy change, the Bush administration lifted a 30-year ban on India getting nuclear technology as it felt that the pact would help satisfy the massive energy needs of a country, especially when it has been ''a responsible steward of its nuclear technologies.'' UNI XC PM RAI2101

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