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Thursday, October 2, 2008

India energised by nuclear pacts

India's atomic energy pact with France represents a major step for the fast developing country, marking the moment it finally rid itself of its status as a nuclear outcast.

A separate deal with the United States was passed by the US Senate on Wednesday, cementing India's new position in what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called "the global nuclear order."

The accord with France, signed in Paris on Tuesday, ended a ban on countries selling civilian nuclear technology and equipment to New Delhi, imposed in 1974 when India used its civilian programme to produce and test an atomic bomb.

Security analyst C. Uday Bhaskar said the pacts would remove the tag of "nuclear transgressor" and give India "a unique and exceptional status that is recognised by the world."

"India is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is not recognised as a nuclear weapon state, but New Delhi can buy reactors, fuel and technology from the international market," said Bhaskar, former head of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.

"This places India in a class apart from Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, countries that have nuclear weapons but cannot engage in nuclear commerce," he said.

The fact that New Delhi, which also carried out nuclear tests in 1998, had managed to re-enter global nuclear commerce on its own terms represents a "significant victory for Indian diplomacy," he added.

Arundhati Ghosh, India's former envoy to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, said the two deals would help to secure the emerging South Asian giant a seat at "the global high table."

The pacts should also allow India to boost its economic growth rate, she said.

New Delhi, which has recently been expanding economically at the rate of over eight percent, has been on the lookout for cheaper and cleaner sources of fuel to accelerate to double-digit growth.

"The deals open the way for India to increase economic growth and sustain it by providing cheap means of electricity for industry and agriculture," she said.

India is being courted by high profile groups like the Group of Eight industrialised nations and is increasingly consulted on major international issues, she noted.

"If India can maintain 10 percent growth rate like China, the world will be seeking India to be part of it and its institutions rather than us seeking be members of bodies like the UN Security Council."

On the domestic front, the pacts represent "a diplomatic feather in Prime Minister Singh's cap," said political analyst and author Rasheed Kidwai.

"It has boosted Singh's image as somebody who can take tough decisions, stand up for his convictions and set his own agenda after seen as dithering for months," Kidwai said.

He was referring to Singh winning a confidence vote in parliament in July on the issue of civilian nuclear energy cooperation with countries including the United States.

It was Washington's support that paved the way for the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group giving India the green light to engage in nuclear commerce.

Other analysts however warned that India still had some way to go.

A spate of bomb attacks and clashes between the dominant Hindu community and the minority Muslims and Christians had cast a shadow on India's image, said Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, head of the School of Convergence think-tank.

"India needs to learn the virtues of inclusive politics and religious tolerance, and to recognise that diversity is its strength rather than its weakness. Only then can it be recognised as a great power," Thakurta said.

(Source: AFP)

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