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India's relations with Iran, China worry US: report

New Delhi, April 18, IRNA - The United States, which is at present negotiating the 123 nuclear agreement with India, has developed sudden concerns that New Delhi could emerge as the proverbial Frankenstein's monster, turning on Washington after the necessary clearances from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been obtained and the bilateral agreement with the US cleared and signed.

India's relations with Iran and China have emerged as central points of concern.

full report (pdf, 362 pages)

A major research study just published by the US government's Strategic Studies Institute and commissioned by the Non-Proliferation Policy Education Center went through detailed discussions with Capitol Hill and executive branch staff, embassy officials, policy analysts and media representatives, said an Asian Age report here Wednesday.

Funding for the project, that includes essays by recognized non- proliferation experts from the US, came from officials in the US executive, Ashley Tellis from the Carnegie Endowment and a key negotiator with India for the deal, Gary Samore from the council on foreign relations and Richard Einhorn of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Well-known nuclear expert Henry Sokolski has put together the obstacles in negotiating US-Indian strategic cooperation along with suggestions to overcome these.

The publication, Gauging US-Indian Strategic Cooperation, lists several concerns it claims are held about India by the member nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the IAEA and the US itself.

Some of the questions raised by the authors include: Will nuclear cooperation expand or as some Indian and American critics have predicted -- become effectively dead due to a lack of mutual nuclear interest? To what extent will Indian nuclear supporters, who have pushed nuclear power as an energy independence effort, be interested in buying foreign reactors? Will US nuclear vendors demand that India establish a credible nuclear insurance poll or provide them with immunity from possible legal claims due to future accidents or acts of nuclear terrorism?

Referring to the Mumbai terror bombings after which the authorities had claimed that they had secured nuclear sites from terror attacks, the publication asks: Will the Indian government be able to do enough?

It is clear from the strategic publication that the conclusion of the 123 agreement is several months away.

And that many of the 44 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group entertain strong reservations about making an exception for India.

The IAEA as well is not keen to negotiate any special safeguards for India, and although the publication does not refer to 'Indian-specific nuclear safeguards', it is clear that there is no such category where the US and the IAEA is concerned.

Instead, Henry Sokolski in his summary, preceding the chapters in the book, points out that the Hyde Act has specifically stated that US policy should strengthen the NPT, IAEA and NSG 'and encourage India to limit the expansion of its nuclear strategic forces'.

Several NSG members, the publication points out, 'are anxious to do nothing that might let India believe that it can test nuclear weapons and continue to receive civilian nuclear assistance'.

China as offered nuclear cooperation to India with the provision that a similar exception should be made for Pakistan.

Other NSG members, including Sweden, 'seem uncomfortable approving civilian nuclear cooperation unless India does more to restrain its nuclear weapons program', according to the report.

It has also pointed out that the IAEA is not keen to accept the Indian proposal that its eight additional civilian Indian reactors should be inspected only when they contain foreign fuel.

The IAEA is reportedly worried that 'this will become a new lower standard for IAEA inspections for other countries'.

In other words, there is no sign that the Indian-specific safeguards have even been accepted by the IAEA as a possibility.

A key concern voiced by Sokolski is 'New Delhi might expand its nuclear forces but choose not to cooperate closely with the United States?'

Clearly this is seen as a distinct possibility by the authors who are not certain that India would work actively with the US to isolate and sanction Iran for nuclear misbehavior.

"The question is will India do so?" Sokolski asks.

India's close ties with Iran, its clear sympathies (Indian Muslims) and Iran's recognition of Kashmir as a legitimate part of India are specifically cited, and economic interests (gas and oil) are recalled in some detail by the authors.

The question 'can the interests India might develop with the US override the attraction to improving its ties to Tehran?' is asked repeatedly.

The publication makes it clear that in the final analysis the US wants 'help from India in isolating and sanctioning Iran'.

It is doubtful, however, if Iran will go very far to achieve this aim.

The US would also like India to help in the reconstruction of Iraq.

But this too is unlikely.

China is another major area of concern.

The publication notes that several Indian officials were as concerned about being encircled by the US as they were about undue Chinese influence in the region.

And referring to the joint military, energy, economic and nuclear cooperation between India and China it posed yet another question causing the US strategic community some concern, 'how might key US interests fare?'

Pointing out that the Indians were currently demanding some of the most advanced, classified US defence technologies, the authors ask, "Will this and other demands be the set price the US must pay to secure India's strategic cooperation, or will India merely play the US off against China and vice versa indefinitely?"

Noting different levels of trade relations with India, the next question posed is: "Will US trade with India... prove more important to India than trade with China, or will India's trade with China prove to be more significant?"

... Payvand News - 4/19/07 ... --

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