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US officials calm Indian fears over nuclear deal

by Staff Writers
Kolkata, India, Aug 4, 2006
A senior US official Friday tried to calm fears of political groups that a controversial America-India civilian nuclear energy deal would harm Indian interests.

The comments came as federal MPs in India's national parliament hotly argued that the landmark deal could blunt India's military nuclear capabilities and called for a resolution to put their fears on record.

"There are apprehensions in India and in the US but we should not worry about this," Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said after arriving in this eastern Indian city.

"We should only think about the final outcome of the legislation which I am confident will be within the framework of what both countries agreed."

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives voted 359-68 in favor of legislation, a first step for the US and India towards clinching the deal which detractors in Washington say will start a nuclear arms race in South Asia.

Boucher said the pact, cobbled together during a visit in March to New Delhi by US President George W. Bush, would benefit India.

"One of the reasons for the civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement was that India gets clean energy and it does not push on the petroleum reserves ...

"It is the beginning of a new relationship as the US recognises India as a rising global power and one of the emerging five largest economies of the world," he said.

Boucher is scheduled to travel to the capital New Delhi and meet with politicians and business leaders on Monday.

Washington says the pact will also advance US non-proliferation goals by bringing India into the international non-proliferation mainstream.

Under the deal, India will open a series of its civilian reactors to international inspection but keep pre-selected military nuclear facilities out of public scrutiny.

India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, conducted a series of nuclear weapons tests in 1998 and then imposed an unilateral moratorium on further testing.

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