- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

A deal on U.S. nuclear cooperation with India is just the “starting” point for similar cooperation with other emerging industrial powers, President Bush said in an interview ahead of a visit to South Asia this week.

Mr. Bush made it clear in the interview with two Pakistani reporters that he sees the deal to provide India with long-denied nuclear equipment and fuel as part of a broader strategy to hold down rising world prices for fossil fuels.

“We are starting with India, and one of the primary reasons why is that India is in need of a diversification away from fossil fuels,” said Mr. Bush, who granted a similar White House interview to two Indian reporters.

“India is consuming a lot of fossil fuel. That is driving up their price — a part of the reason why the price is rising. [The United States] uses a lot of fossil fuels, China is using more fossil fuels, India is using more fossil fuels, and it’s affecting the price of energy in the U.S. and in India and Pakistan.

“And, therefore, to the extent to which we can get these fast-growing, developing nations to use something other than fossil fuels, it’s in the world’s interest, and it’s in Pakistan’s interest, as well,” said Mr. Bush, who arrives in India on Wednesday for a three-day visit.

The United States and India agreed in principle in July to the deal, which would lift long-standing restrictions placed on nuclear cooperation with India because of its nuclear-weapons program.

Attempts to conclude a final agreement in time for Mr. Bush’s arrival have been troubled, however, by Indian resistance to U.S. demands that it first separate its civilian and military nuclear programs in ways that are credible and transparent.

Mr. Bush declined to say whether he thought a similar deal could be extended to Pakistan, whose leading nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, was found to be the head of a ring selling black-market nuclear technology to rogue states such as North Korea and Iran.

But he maintained that Pakistan — a bitter rival of India’s since its founding — should not see the U.S.-India bargain as a “zero-sum game” in which India’s gain is Pakistan’s loss.

“It’s the beginning of a policy that says, ‘There will be a suppliers’ group which would be capable of providing fuel stocks for a civilian nuclear-power industry, countries that will then collect the spent fuel, reprocess it to be able to burn it in new types of reactors,’” he said.

“The purpose of this whole initiative, and beginning with countries like India, is to recognize that alternative sources of energy are going to be important for the development of a clean world and a world that becomes substantially less reliant on nonrenewable sources of energy.”

Looking ahead to his visit to Islamabad, Pakistan, Mr. Bush said the conclusion of a bilateral investment treaty would be the first step toward greater commercial ties with Pakistan and also would benefit Afghanistan.

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