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Boucher urges Cong to endorse Indo-US Nuke deal

By Super

Washington, May 18: US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher has urged the Congress to support and implement US-India civilian nuclear deal so it could move forward.

''We look to the US Congress as a full partner in this endeavor.

Your support for this is crucial and we look forward to continuing to work closely with you to ensure that we grasp this important opportunity,'' Mr Boucher said yesterday.

Testifying before the House International Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, he said,'' We don't claim the nuke deal is perfect.

We claim it provides a net gain for non-proliferation. It brings India into alignment with non-proliferation efforts worldwide'' He told the Subcommittee, headed by Republican Congressman Jim Leach, that implementing this initiative is a top priority for both the countries.

Allaying all concerns about the deal and the criticism it has evoked in certain quarters, Mr Boucher said the significance of this initiative should not be underestimated.

India has pledged, for the first time, to submit its entire civil nuclear programme to international inspection and to take on significant new non-proliferation commitments in exchange for full civil nuclear cooperation with the international community.

''With this initiative, the world expects India to be a full partner in non-proliferation and India expects the world to help it meet its growing energy needs,'' Mr Boucher said.

Making out a strong case for the Congress to endorse the deal, he said India has already done much to meet the non-proliferation goals.

''They've improved their export control systems, brought some of their standards into alignment with the practices of the Nuclear Suppliers Group already. They have pledged to support negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty. They have begun their discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency. So they're taking steps to bring themselves more and more into alignment with the international non-proliferation regime,'' the State Department official added.

Mr Boucher said, ''We've got a net gain on non-proliferation and substantial benefits elsewhere. So that's what we got in return for allowing this kind of cooperation. Civil nuclear cooperation with India will elevate the US-India relationship to heights we have never previously achieved.'' Mr Leach raised concern over Pakistan's objections to the US-India nuke deal and said it could lead to an arms race in South Asia.

However, Mr Boucher said that in his dealings with Indian and Pakistani officials, it has become clear that neither of them is looking to expand weapons production beyond what they might already have planned.

''Certainly both sides tell us they don't want to see an arms race. They are indeed watching each other, but they're also cooperating and discussing things like confidence-building measures, '' Mr Boucher added.

He also emphasised that the civilian nuclear cooperation with India does not in any way increase or change their ability to make weapons or the strategic equation in the region.

To another question from Mr Leach on Indo-Pak relations, the assistant secretary said a certain amount of progress has been made, especially in discussions of sensitive issues like confidence building when it comes to nuclear and conventional weaponry.


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