Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Civilian Nuclear Technology and U.S.-India Relationship - Open Letter to House International Relations Committee Chairman Hyde

NEW YORK, Nov. 9 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Following is an open letter from Federation of Indian Associations President Sudhir Parikh, M.D., to House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde:

Dear Chairman Hyde,

On July 18, President Bush and the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh reached an historic understanding on cooperation in civilian nuclear technology that serves long-term U.S. interests. I urge you to support this agreement that is an important part of the process of transforming relations with this fellow democracy.

India and U.S. interests have been converging and overlapping in recent years in key strategic areas. India has worked with us and the Europeans in the IAEA in developing a consensus and voting with us to stop Iran's secret nuclear program. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, India gave us crucial facilities for our military aircraft on its soil. Last year Indian and American navies worked together to bring relief and succor to many Asian countries struck by the tsunami killer waves. Today India is helping us in Afghanistan to support the government of President Karzai and to fight the Taliban-Al Qaeda elements. India and the United States are natural partners and we need to strengthen these ties in every way because it meets our interests, furthers our objectives.

The U.S.-India civil nuclear understanding reached on July 18 this year is based on the premise of reciprocity and mutual steps. We undertook to amend our laws and work with our international partners to enable civil nuclear cooperation with a responsible fellow democracy in return for a slew of measures India is expected to take. Our obligations kick in only after India has also fulfilled its side of the understanding.

The first question is: why India? This is a unique country that developed its own advanced civil nuclear energy program over decades but never allowed its technology to leak to other nations -- ever. On the other hand, India's neighbors -- Pakistan and Red China -- have been the main source of proliferation of nuclear and missile technology to countries like Iran, Libya and North Korea. There have been absolutely no cases of proliferation of sensitive nuclear and missile technology from India. Second, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a huge pent up need for energy that will only grow in the future.

It is one of the most promising markets for our energy companies in the free world. Third, nuclear energy in India will help reduce pressure on the world oil and gas reserves. Fourth, as we are ourselves realizing now, nuclear energy is clean and environment-friendly. In return for civil nuclear cooperation with us India has done the following:

-- It has enacted a comprehensive law to further tighten its WMD export control regime.

-- It has harmonized its control lists with the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.

-- It has undertaken to separate its civil nuclear facilities from the military and put them under IAEA safeguards. For the first time India will put indigenously built facilities under safeguards.

-- It has reiterated its promise not to do any further nuclear explosive tests.

-- It will work with us to help negotiate an international treaty on controlling the production of fissile material for weapons.

Taken together, these are obligations no Indian government has undertaken before. We believe that it is crucial for our Congress to pass the necessary amendments to our laws so that we do not lose this great opportunity to transform relations with the world's largest democracy while furthering our key interests in non-proliferation and building an alliance with an emerging Asian power.

The 2 million strong Indian-American community is particularly excited by the turn of events that holds the promise of combining the moral and material strength of the United States and India not only in supporting each other but working together on global issues like non-proliferation, terrorism and environment protection. Do not let this opportunity pass.

With warm regards,

Sudhir Parikh, M.D.,

President, Federation of Indian Associations


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