Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday assured members of Congress that India’s track record in nuclear nonproliferation is “impeccable.”
In an address to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Singh said India was a responsible nuclear power that is “fully conscious of the immense responsibilities that come with the possession of advanced technologies, both civilian and strategic.”
“We have never been, and will never be, a source of proliferation of sensitive technologies,” he reiterated.
Mr. Singh said the field of civil nuclear energy was a vital area for cooperation between the United States and India. “We have adhered scrupulously to every rule and canon in this area,” he said, adding, “We have done so even though we have witnessed unchecked nuclear proliferation in our own neighborhood, which has directly affected our security interests.”
President Bush on Monday agreed to share civilian nuclear technology with India in exchange for a promise from India to continue its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. The agreement also said India would be ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices and acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology, such as the United States.
The Abdul Qadeer Khan network based in India’s neighbor, Pakistan, was found to have proliferated nuclear technology to rogue nations.
Mr. Singh also touched upon the issue of terrorism and noted “open societies like ours are today threatened more than ever before by the rise of terrorism. The very openness of our societies makes us more vulnerable, and yet we must deal effectively with the threat without losing the openness we so value and cherish.”
While the Bush administration has privately reiterated its stance to the Indians that it does not favor a vote on expansion of the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Singh raised the issue on Capitol Hill yesterday.
He said there must be “comprehensive reform of the United Nations to make it more effective and also more representative.”
“The U.N. Security Council must be restructured as part of the reform process. In this context, you would agree that the voice of the world’s largest democracy surely cannot be left unheard on the Security Council when the United Nations is being restructured,” he said.
Mr. Singh’s speech is the eighth by a foreign leader to a joint session of Congress in the past five years. Yesterday’s address was the first by an Indian leader since former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000.
Rep. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Republican and the lone Indian American in Congress, said he was “confident that [Mr. Singhs] address, as well as his meeting with Mr. Bush yesterday, represents a major step forward in the strengthening of Indian-American relations. I look forward to a continuing of that relationship.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said, “India and the U.S. both stand for freedom, liberty, justice and equality and that in itself is the foundation for a grand relationship.”