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US says IBSA's endorsement of Indo-US nuke deal significant

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington, DC
September 15, 2006 11:13 IST
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The United States has described as a significant development the endorsement of the Indo-US nuclear deal by South Africa and Brazil, key members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and said it is actively interacting with key members of the multinational grouping to explain the virtues of the agreement.

"You saw a fairly significant development in that regard. The meeting between India, South Africa and Brazil where Brazil and South Africa, who are key members of NSG, stood up and said, 'yes we support the Indian plan, we support the Indian effort, we think it is good for that to go through and be able to cooperate with India on civilian nuclear power," Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher said.

At the IBSA summit in Brasilia, Brazil and South Africa had extended their support to India for opening up avenues for international civilian nuclear cooperation.

Boucher also felt that the NSG would not be ready at the moment to decide on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

"The United States has been talking to a lot of countries, to try and get to as many countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group as possible and to try to answer their questions. We have been pretty active," he told students at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.

Boucher said that while in Europe recently he pretty much grabbed anybody he could to explain the virtues of the US-India agreement.

The NSG, Boucher said, are producers of nuclear technology who have got together to implement the NPT.

The grouping arranges for rules under which we can exchange and sell technology to other countries, but to do so in a way that is safe for non-proliferation efforts around the world where we help countries with power needs but we don't help countries develop nuclear weapons, he said.

"Frankly for many years the Indians thought this was the group persecuting them," Boucher said.

"India started to work to change its relationship," Boucher said pointing to the fact that Indian diplomats were out talking to the NSG, explaining their policy, explaining their separating plan, and explaining the cooperation they like.

"The deal with India is different. It is not your classic non-proliferation treaty deal. It doesn't fit nicely under this category... There are a lot of questions being asked and very legitimate questions that need to be answered and we have good answers, between us and the Indians we can answer these questions," he said.

"I have another opportunity in Vienna this October... I don't think they'll be quite ready to decide at the moment," Boucher maintained.

In his opening remarks, Boucher spoke of the Indo-US nuclear deal as a 'big deal from a lot of points of view' and that it was not just good for non proliferation but has its significance in how India's relationship with the western world is moving.

"We are still hopeful," he said of the US Senate taking up its version of the legislation this month in spite of the crowded agenda the chamber has in front of it.

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington, DC
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