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India appeals for end to U.S. nuclear curbs
Updated: 2005-06-28 10:28

India's defense minister appealed on Monday for a quick end to restrictions on nuclear and technology cooperation with the United States, saying they limit India's ability to become a stabilizing force in Asia.

On his first visit to Washington since taking up his post, Pranab Mukherjee said such limitations were among factors "that prevent India from realizing its potential to contribute to international peace, stability and development."

In a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he said India and the United States have a "convergence of our security concerns," including "fundamentalist activism and terrorism" and weapons proliferation.

India is on the front line of this struggle and hence merits Washington's assistance, Mukherjee added.

He met earlier in the day with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and is due to visit Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday at the Pentagon.

Mukherjee is preparing the way for a White House visit next month by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

President George W. Bush has greatly accelerated predecessor Bill Clinton's initiative to strengthen ties between the world's two biggest democracies, at odds through most of the Cold War and the years immediately afterward.

Economic and diplomatic relations have mushroomed.

But nuclear, military and other technology dealings have been more cautious, largely because of U.S. concerns over India's status as an undeclared nuclear power that has refused to join most international non-proliferation regimes.

The administration has begun to cooperate on nuclear-related safety programs with India.

But U.S. Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph said last week "we're moving forward in an incremental and reciprocal way" in this regard and no immediate changes in U.S. law or policy are contemplated.

Mukherjee said if India is to realize its economic potential, it needs alternative sources of energy and foremost among those available is nuclear energy.

Insisting India's nuclear energy and weapons programs are separate, he said "restrictions against India's nuclear energy programs are anachronistic."

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