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Rice talks tough on NPT-adhering nations

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
April 06, 2006 01:16 IST
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Even while seeing the Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of its nuclear policy, the Bush administration is also working on 'rules of the game' that the Nuclear Suppliers Group has on 'certain' standards of behaviour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, while making a robust defence of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

"We have to recognise that the NPT is the cornerstone, but one part of a maturing non-proliferation framework within which we are also working to have rules of the game that the NSG has on certain standards of behaviour," she added.

"We are working, through the missile control technology regime, which India is agreeing to adhere to unilaterally; efforts to get states to give up enrichment and reprocessing for assured fuel supplies...and making certain that those who signed the NPT and then violate it and disregard it are really the ones who come under punishment from the international system," Rice said.

Rice told lawmakers that 'I have to say there's a very big difference between the behaviour of Iran and North Korea, who callously signed the NPT and then have not been in compliance with it'.

"India never signed the NPT, but we are asking India to adhere to many of the important elements of the guidelines that are making up the nonproliferation regime," Rice told Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the chair of the Panel.

Rice also sought to allay the fears of senators that by signing on to the changes in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to formalise the civilian nuclear deal, the United States is not encouraging an arms race in the region.

"We do have a growing strategic relationship with India, and I think it is one that is increasingly based on trust and mutual interest and common values...that's an important foundation for the relationship to move forward," Rice said in response to an observation by Senator Lugar.

"We do have to do something about the energy problem. I can tell you that nothing has really taken me aback more, as Secretary of State, than the way that the politics of energy is -- I will use the word 'warping' diplomacy around the world. It has given extraordinary power to some states that are using that power in not very good ways for the international system, states that would otherwise have very little power," Rice said.

"It is sending some states that are growing very rapidly in an all-out search for energy -- states like China, states like India -- that is really sending them into parts of the world where they've not been seen before, and challenging, I think, for our diplomacy," she said.

She said, "We are looking to technological solutions for the energy appetite of growing countries. And, of course, being able to cooperate with India on civil nuclear cooperation would help us to pursue that goal. And finally, I'll just note that we also are looking very hard for good partners in the nonproliferation work."

"On the question of the India nuclear weapons programme, first of all, the Indian programme, we believe, just in terms of what India's incentives or disincentives are to grow its nuclear programme, its strategic programme, are more related to the political-military conditions in the region, than to any quantity of available nuclear material," Rice said.

The Secretary of State said India's programme has been 'restrained' over the years - "Secondly, the region is one in which the political situation has improved and we hope is going to continue to improve."

Rice also referred back to 2001 and 2002 and the challenges Washington faced over Kashmir with India and Pakistan. "And so, we believe that, by strengthening our relationships with these countries, we can actually contribute to that environment and that's the real guarantor of trying to stop an arms race," she asserted.

"But, third, I think it's the assessment that we have that India has some 50,000 -- give or take -- tons of uranium available to it in its reserves and it would need a very small percentage of that on the military nuclear side. And, in fact, we do not believe that the absence of uranium is really the constraint on the nuclear weapons programme," Rice maintained.

"On the other hand, on the civil side, the amount of fuel that one would need to run a civil programme for years and years and years is far in excess of what India can mine indigenously," she said. "The incentives, or the crunch, if you will, is really on the civil side."

"And it, therefore, gives India incentives to safeguard future reactors. It gives India incentives to safeguard fuel supply and to get that fuel supply under a international nonproliferation regime," Rice pointed out.

Complete coverage: The Indo-US nuclear tango

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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