February 22, 2006

Bush urges India to cooperate on nuclear plans

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush pressed
India on Wednesday to separate its civilian and military
nuclear programs so a controversial deal giving New Delhi
access to U.S. and other foreign nuclear technology could go

In a speech to the Asia Society previewing his trip next
week to India and Pakistan, Bush also said Pakistan and other
countries in the region must strike a balance between
respecting Muslims' rights to protest publication of cartoons
of the Prophet Mohammad and not letting the protests turn

"We understand that striking the right balance is
difficult, but we must not allow mobs to dictate the future of
South Asia," Bush said.

Reflecting rapidly improving ties, the United States and
India last July agreed in principle to give New Delhi access to
long-denied U.S. civilian nuclear technology, including fuel
and reactors, and also open the door to other foreign

The two governments remain at odds over a central part of
that deal, a plan to separate India's nuclear facilities in
which civilian sites would be subject to international
inspections while military sites remain off-limits.

The plan aims to bring India closer to international
nonproliferation norms and guard against diversion of imported
nuclear technology from energy uses to nuclear weapons.

Failure to resolve key practical differences would mar
Bush's trip, officials and experts say.

Bush said in his speech that India should bring its
civilian nuclear program under International Atomic Energy
Agency safeguards.

"I'll continue to encourage India to produce a credible,
transparent and defensible plan to separate its civilian and
military nuclear programs," he said.

For 30 years, the United States led an effort to deny India
nuclear technology because it tested and developed nuclear
weapons. Neither India nor its nuclear-armed rival Pakistan
have signed the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

The Americans insist India must put more facilities under
international supervision than New Delhi has proposed. India's
powerful nuclear establishment has complained this would
shackle its scientists and leave India dependent on imported

The chief U.S. negotiator on the deal, Undersecretary of
State Nichols Burns, is in India this week for more talks.

The civilian nuclear-energy accord faces strong opposition
in both India and the United States. "Implementing this
agreement will take time and it will take patience from both
our countries," Bush said.

India's ambassador to Washington, Ronen Sen, on Tuesday
denied criticisms that the deal would help New Delhi make more
atomic weapons. He complained that debate over the accord has
been "hijacked" by U.S. nonproliferation "theologians" and
advocates of Indian self-reliance.

He warned that if India is unable to expand its civilian
nuclear-power industry it would have to burn its own stocks of
"dirty coal," to the detriment of the environment.

In Islamabad, Pakistan Islamists vowed this week to broaden
a campaign against the Mohammad cartoons to target Bush and
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. anti-terrorism

Bush, acknowledging a "sensitive time" in South Asia
because of the cartoons, said he believes people have the right
to express themselves in a free press and he respected
organized, peaceful protests.

"And when protests turn violent, governments have an
obligation to restore the rule of law," he said.

(Additional reporting by Carol Giacomo)