07/19/2005, 00.00
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Washington and New Delhi to cooperate on nuclear issues and terrorism

by Nirmala Carvalho
United States will put doubts aside and supply technology to help India develop its nuclear industry. New Delhi dreams of a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. Indian Catholic Church is happy that the largest democracy in the world is emerging on the world stage.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Pledge of United States technological aid to India's nuclear industry was the most significant element coming from the first day of the official visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington.

The state visit marks closer relations between the two former rivals and the decision on nuclear technology represents a new chapter in their relationship.

The US had cut off all technology transfers when, in 1998, India proceeded to carry out nuclear tests.

New Delhi needs to build up its civilian nuclear programme to supply its growing economy with energy, but Washington had not relented because India is not a signatory to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation.

US President George W. Bush said yesterday that he would ask Congress to change existing legislation and urge other countries to change international rules to allow transfers in this area.

Some analysts see in the US willingness to cater to India's needs an attempt to contain Chinese influence in the region and prevent a New Delhi-Beijing alliance.

For his part, Prime Minister Singh, who is in the US on a three-day visit, said that his country would join to international agreements against proliferation and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Speaking to AsiaNews, Card Telesphore Toppo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), said he was happy to see India emerge as a great power on the world stage.

"US backing in the civilian nuclear sector is a sign that India is being recognised internationally. It is positive development and so is India's commitment to peace", the Cardinal said.

For him, India "can concretely contribute to peace in today's torn world".

Global terrorism was another of the issues the two leaders discussed yesterday.

According to CBCI Secretary General, Mgr Oswald Gracias, "when it comes to terrorism, the press provides little coverage if it involves India. There should be greater focus when it happens in India.

Washington's new attitude towards New Delhi is also illustrated by the level of attention afforded to Mr Singh whose visit was ceremonial in nature, only the fifth such state visit hosted by the US President in five years.

Cardinal Toppo noted that "it is evident how much importance the US is placing in the meeting" with the leader of the largest democracy in the world.

He said that Mr Singh is a well-known economist and commercial deals with the US will profit the economies of both countries. Plus, the "Washington visit will be to the advantage of the whole of humanity".

During yesterday's press conference, Mr Bush said that "the relationship between our two countries has never been stronger."

Mr Singh spoke about "the importance of ensuring adequate energy and affordable supplies", joining the US in facing the challenges of international terrorism and the need for reforming the United Nations Security Council and give India permanent membership.

Archbishop Gracias said that "India counts on the US to get a permanent seat in exchange for greater access to its markets and economy".

However, Bush did not raise the issue of India's seat in the Security Council. He did though speak about defence cooperation and how the "two nations can work toward common security objectives."

The two leaders did not discuss escalating anti-Christian violence by Hindu fundamentalist.

Cardinal Toppo said that "this is an internal matter, which we have to sort out in the Bishops' Conference here itself".

The US President stated that US policy vis-à-vis Kashmir remained unchanged. "This problem will be solved by India and Pakistan. And our role is to encourage the leaders from both countries to work in good faith to solve this long-standing problem," he said.

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