- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2006

NEW DELHI — The United States and India yesterday sealed a deal on a historic civilian nuclear cooperation pact as President Bush prepared to travel tomorrow to Pakistan, where a suicide bomb attack killed an American diplomat near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi.

Despite the attack, the president said he will keep to his schedule.

“Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan,” Mr. Bush said after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Although security for the president’s visit to Islamabad is extremely tight, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley told reporters, “This is not a risk-free undertaking.”

Mr. Hadley said the U.S. Secret Service and Pakistani security forces have “taken a number of precautions to protect the president,” but he did not elaborate beyond “people are comfortable that the necessary precautions are in place.”

The overnight stay was not officially announced until yesterday. Mr. Hadley said “It’s something we’d like to announce as late …” He left the sentence unfinished.

In Karachi U.S. Foreign Service officer David Foy and three others were killed yesterday after a suicide attacker rammed a car packed with explosives into Mr. Foy’s vehicle. The bombing occurred about 1,000 miles south of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, where Mr. Bush will meet with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup.

Mr. Hadley said the attack serves as “a reminder that we’re at war, and that Pakistan is both an ally in the war on terror, and in some sense, a battleground of the war on terror.”

In New Delhi, Mr. Bush and Mr. Singh signed the nuclear pact just hours after negotiations of the agreement concluded. Mr. Bush immediately turned to selling the agreement to Congress, where some lawmakers oppose the move because India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Under the deal, the U.S. would share nuclear technology and fuel, including uranium, with India, while the world’s largest democracy would separate its civilian and military nuclear programs and place the civilian plants under international inspections.

“We concluded an historic agreement today on nuclear power,” the president said in a joint press conference with Mr. Singh. “I’m looking forward to working with our United States Congress to change decades of law that will enable us to move forward in this important initiative.”

The agreement represents a major shift in policy for the U.S., which had criticized India after its 1974 nuclear test and levied temporary sanctions in 1998 after more tests.

Yesterday’s deal, laid out in principle during Mr. Singh’s July visit to Washington but not concluded until two hours before the leaders’ joint appearance, requires member countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to lift restrictions on sharing civilian nuclear technology with India.

“Congress will now play the key role,” Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said. “The executive branch, of course, has had the initiative to make the deal, but this deal requires a change in United States law, and Congress obviously will have to do that.”

Mr. Burns said there have been “lots of private briefings” with lawmakers and expressed hope that they “will now see that this deal is a gain for the U.S. and a gain for nonproliferation, and that U.S. law might be changed.”

A senior Bush administration official said the pact was a compromise on both sides: “This wasn’t a choice between zero and 100 [percent], this was a choice between zero and 65.”

But Mr. Burns said that although the deal was “not perfect,” the president faced a difficult question: “Is it better to maintain India in isolation, or is it better to try to bring it into the international mainstream?”

“India for the very first time has agreed to international safeguards,” he said. “They have given a commitment that all breeder and power reactors will be put under safeguards, and this is very critical.”

Under the deal, India would agree to international oversight for 14 of its 22 nuclear reactors, after initially offering inspections at four. The pact requires that Congress revise the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

Reaction on Capitol Hill was cautiously optimistic. Andy Fisher, spokesman for Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said his boss “looked forward to learning the details … and getting draft legislation from the Bush administration.”

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the committee, called the deal “laudable” and said it was “unrealistic to expect [India] to renounce its nuclear weapons program at this time.”

Mr. Bush began his long day of official events at a lavish arrival ceremony in a sun-drenched plaza at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president’s palace.

He reviewed troops of the Indian armed services outfitted in orange turbans and brown dress uniforms with colorful sashes and marveled at a cavalry unit on horseback that earlier had flanked his limousine.

“I have been received in many capitals around the world, but I have never seen a reception as well-organized or as grand,” Mr. Bush said.

The president and first lady Laura Bush then visited a memorial to India’s independence leader, Mohandas K. Gandhi, standing in stocking feet for a moment of silence and wreath-laying at the site of his cremation in 1948.

Following tradition, the Bushes tossed flower petals on the cremation platform.

Eric Pfeiffer contributed to this report in Washington.

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