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India: Foreign Secretary Offers Assurances On Nuclear Program

Foreign Minister Shyam Saran (file photo) (AFP) India's foreign secretary is seeking to assure Washington that any U.S. aid for its civilian nuclear program will not be diverted to military use or third countries. Shyam Saran spoke prior to high-level meetings with U.S. officials on removing obstacles to a July agreement in which Washington pledged to help India develop civilian nuclear energy. The foreign secretary also stressed the need for dialogue within the UN's atomic energy agency to resolve the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

Washington, 21 December 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Indian Foreign Minister Shyam Saran is heading a delegation of top Indian energy and security officials seeking to advance an agreement seen as crucial for India's energy needs.

But the July agreement, which would bring U.S. aid to India's civilian nuclear program, is facing new questions because India has prevented access to a research reactor near Mumbai.

Saran on 21 December said the matter of the Cirus research reactor would be discussed by U.S. and Indian officials in the next few days.

No Diversion

Saran told a foreign policy institute in Washington at the start of his visit that India's credibility should not be in doubt.

"If [the] international community extends nuclear cooperation to India, we do believe that we have the responsibility to assure our partners that what is coming to India as civilian nuclear-energy cooperation will not be diverted to unauthorized uses," Saran said.

Saran spoke to a gathering of regional and non-proliferation experts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. He was to meet directly after with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A Deal In July

On 18 July Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached agreement with U.S. President George W. Bush to increase cooperation in developing civilian nuclear energy.

But the U.S. Congress must approve changes in U.S. law to allow the government to aid India's civilian nuclear program.

U.S. laws forbid U.S. nuclear fuel and reactor transfers to states such as India that do not permit inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of all of their nuclear facilities.

Saran stressed India's value as a strategic U.S. partner and growing democratic force in its region. He repeated India's opposition to Iran having a nuclear weapons program and said Tehran must respect international agreements.

"Let me be clear, India does not favor the emergence of any more nuclear weapons states -- least of all in our own neighborhood," Saran said. "We are unable to accept as legitimate the pursuit of clandestine activities in respect to WMD-related technologies. We believe that all states must adhere to commitments under international treaties and instruments and furthermore must be transparent in fulfilling these commitments."

No Security Council Referal

But Saran also said India is against referring the matter of Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council, which U.S. officials stress must be an option.

"We are very happy that dialogue seems to be in the process of being resumed right now in Vienna," he said. "We believe that as far as these issues are concerned, they should be dealt with within the purview of the IAEA itself because there could be unintended consequences if the matter is taken to the Security Council."

Saran also stressed the importance of energy security for India. He said his government continues to explore a deal for a natural-gas pipeline from Iran, analyzing "its economic viability."

Iran's Nuclear Program

Iran's Nuclear Program

THE COMPLETE PICTURE: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.