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Approve US-India N deal: Senator Richard to US Cong

Written by: Staff

Washington, June 17 : Leading US Senator Richard Lugar described the US-India civilian nuclear deal as ''the most important strategic diplomatic initiative undertaken ''by President George Bush and urged the US Congress to approve the deal, now pending before it.

Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in his commencement speech at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, said both Houses of Congress are satisfactorily ''working through language that would guide our policy toward India''.

He said a congressional rejection of the agreement or ''open-ended delay risks wasting a critical opportunity to begin to expand beyond our Cold War alliance structures to include dynamic nations with whom our interests are converging.'' It was the strongest statement Mr Lugar has made to date regarding the India agreement, which he called ''the most important strategic diplomatic initiative and a departure from the crisis management mentality that has dominated foreign policy'' in recent years.

''I believe it is critical that the US Congress comes to conclusions about the nuclear deal with India. By concluding this pact and the far-reaching set of cooperative agreements that accompany it, President Bush has embraced a long-term outlook that seeks to enhance the core strength of our foreign policy in a way that will give us new diplomatic options and improve global stability,'' Lugar said.

''With this agreement, the President and Secretary Rice are asking Congress to see the opportunities that lie beyond the horizon of the current presidential term,'' he added.

Mr Lugar said ''members of Congress, including myself, have been studying the implications of the nuclear pact on non-proliferation policy. India has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and it has developed and tested nuclear weapons. The US-India agreement would allow India to receive nuclear fuel, technology, and reactors from the United States- benefits that were previously denied to it because of its status outside the treaty.'' ''Even though there is concern about the precedent set by this deal, we must ensure that this agreement does not undercut our own responsibilities under the Nonproliferation Treaty,'' Senator Lugar said referring to intense criticism from the American nonproliferation lobby.

However, he said even this can be done satisfactorily. ''Both Houses of Congress are working through language that would guide our policy toward India. I believe that we can help solidify New Delhi's commitments to implement strong export controls, separate its civilian nuclear infrastructure from its weapons program, and place civilian facilities under the IAEA safeguards. This agreement also would be a powerful incentive for India to cooperate closely with the United States in stopping proliferation and to abstain from further nuclear weapons tests. These outcomes could represent important advancements for non-proliferation policy.''

''India can be an anchor of stability in Asia and an engine of global economic growth with a well-educated middle class that is larger than the entire US population, Senator Lugar said. ''The Bush administration's declaration that we would welcome India's advancement as a major economic and political player on the world stage represents a strategic decision to invest political capital in a country with a vibrant democracy, rapidly growing economy, and increasing clout.'' Mr Lugar said India can also be a key partner in countering global extremist trends. ''Both of our countries understand the importance of opposing violent movements through the promotion of religious pluralism, tolerance, and democratic freedoms. As a country with well-entrenched democratic traditions and the world's second largest Muslim population, India can set an example of a multi-religious and multi-cultural democracy in an otherwise volatile region.'' India's growing energy demand- likely to double within 20 years ''makes global energy security an integral part of our strategic dialogue and provides important opportunities for cooperation.

The bill, which has been passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, promotes and authorises funding for joint research and development of alternative energy sources and clean coal technologies. ''It is essential that we elevate our energy dialogue with India and work together to increase the availability of clean energy and help stabilize world energy markets,'' Mr Lugar said.

''We already are beginning to see strategic benefits from developing closer relations with India. India's votes at the IAEA on the Iran issue last September and this past February demonstrate that New Delhi is able and willing to adjust its traditional foreign policies and play a constructive role on international issues.'' ''While acknowledging that India prizes its strategic autonomy, it will have increasing incentives to use its influence to help sway debates and events in other areas that serve stability and global economic progress,'' Mr Lugar said without specifying what those incentives are.

He also spoke against weighing India as a counter-balance to China. The impulse behind this thinking, only oversimplifies global relationships in the 21st Century, and it underestimates the broader value of engaging India as a partner in a changing world.

Mr Lugar strongly advocated against India being used as a card to play in balance of power games. ''We need more from India than security cooperation. We need a partner that sits at the intersection of several strategic regions and that can be a bulwark for stability, democracy, and pluralism.''


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