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N-deal is in Washington's interest: Bush

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington, DC
March 21, 2006 11:48 IST
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US President George W Bush has said that it was in America's interest to work out the civilian nuclear deal with India and develop the "important relationship" with New Delhi by setting aside cold-war era tensions.

Bush also said it was a "positive development" for India that Washington was a friend of Islamabad and likewise for Pakistan that America was a friend of India.

Speaking about the Indo-US nuclear deal, Bush said it was a "controversial decision" as it "basically flies in the face of Cold War attitudes, as well as arms control thinking", but emphasised the move would help reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.

"We live in a global economy, there is a demand for fossil fuels -- an increase in the demand for fossil fuels in one part of the world affects the price of gasoline in our world. We're connected. Whether people like it or not, there is an interconnectedness today that affects our economy. Somebody's decision overseas affects whether or not people are going to be able to work here in America. So I think it makes sense for the United States, as we ourselves become less addicted to oil and fossil fuels, which I'm serious about, to encourage others to do so, as well," Bush told reporters in Cleveland Monday.

Bush said the use of safe nuclear power should be encouraged. "It's in our interests, our economic interests that we work an agreement with India to encourage their expansion of civilian nuclear power," he added.  

Observing that India has a clean non-proliferation record, Bush said, "Unlike Iran, for example, India is willing to join the International Atomic Energy Agency. They want to be a part of the global agreements around nuclear power. India has got a record of non-proliferation. They've had 30 years of not proliferating."

Moreover, "India is a democracy and a transparent society. You find out a lot about India because there's a free press. There is openness. People run for office and are held to account. There's committee hearings," he said stressing that he felt very comfortable recommending the accord with India.

"I feel very comfortable recommending to the US Congress -- they ought to agree with the agreement that Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh and I have reached. It's important. It's also an important relationship. For too long, America and India were not partners in peace. We didn't deal with each other because of the Cold War. And now is the time to set the Cold War behind us. It's over, folks. It no longer is. And let's think about the next 30 years," he said.

"And so my hope is some day somebody will be asking the question, aren't you glad old George W thought about entering into a strategic relationship with India? And I believe it's in our country's interest that we have such a relationship, and at the same time, maintain close relations with Pakistan," he said.

On the US relationship with India and Pakistan, he said, "It's an important accomplishment in order to help keep the peace. I don't view our relationships with Pakistan and India as a zero-sum relationship.

"As a matter of fact, I view our relationships with both countries as different sets of issues and the need to nurture both relationships to achieve common objectives. And we're in a position to be able to do so now," he said.

Bush also recalled tensions between the two countries when he came to office in 2001.

"When I first got into office, I remember asking Colin Powell to go get in between India and Pakistan. There was a lot of noise -- you might remember, I think it was '01 or '02, where there was deep concerns about -- I think '01 -- deep concerns about a potential nuclear conflict. And so there was shuttle diplomacy, back and forth between India and Pakistan, including not only our --  Colin, but also Jack Straw, the foreign minister of Great Britain. And you never know how dangerous one of these situations can become until it's too late, but, nevertheless, we took it very seriously," he said.

The US president said the situation has changed greatly since.

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington, DC
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