WASHINGTON – India's prime minister promised U.S. lawmakers that his country's nuclear record has been “impeccable” in recent years and that his country's economy now needs civil nuclear energy.
“We have adhered scrupulously to every rule and canon in this area,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a joint meeting of Congress Tuesday. “We have done so,even though we have witnessed unchecked nuclear proliferation in our own neighborhood,which has directly affected our security interest.”
Relations between India and Pakistan have been tense in recent years as both nuclear powers feuded over the region of Kashmir. The United States and the United Nations condemned nuclear build-ups between the two countries,punishing India with sanctions that have prevented the country from expanding domestic nuclear power.
However,President Bush and Singh said their meeting Monday signals a new cooperation between the two countries. Bush said he would urge Congress and international allies to “enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India.”
The meeting marked a new page in the partnership between the two countries,which are now collaborating in space,agricultural and energy research,Bush and Singh said.
On Tuesday,Singh stood between Vice President Dick Cheney and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert,R-Ill.,as he described recent changes in India.
Technology jobs are increasing. About 400 of the Fortune 500 companies already operate in India,Singh said. The Indian workforce is young and educated,with many Indian students graduating from American universities,he said.
“You are the world's longest democracy,” Singh said to members of Congress. “We are its largest.”
But increasing democracy requires economic increases,Singh said,and those will only be possible with the expansion of energy resources,including nuclear technology.
The export of nuclear technology would compromise the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,which bans the export of any nuclear materials to countries not meeting inspection and weapons standards,according to Leonard Spector,deputy director for the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies.
India,Pakistan,Israel and North Korea are among the countries that do not meet the standards. Spector said the new agreement would weaken the treaty.
“We were the champions,fighting bitterly for those rules,” Spector said. “We've just pressed the Russians to stop the export of a nuclear power plant to India,and they did.”
And now,the message to the world is that the rules can be changed,Spector said. That potentially means a weakened treaty for other countries.
“It's just very hard to persuade countries to restrain themselves,” he said.
Bush said he will try to persuade Congress to end sanctions,but Spector said the issue will be “hotly debated.” Spector said that the Bush administration had an internal debate about the matter.
“It looks like the administration is moving toward choosing good guys and bad guys,” he said.