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Bush-India Pact Would Allow Continued Nuke Development

By Elisabeth Bumiller 
and Somini Sengupta
THE NEW YORK TIMES


NEW DELHI

President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India announced here on Thursday what Bush called a “historic” nuclear pact that would help India satisfy its enormous civilian energy needs while allowing it to continue to develop nuclear weapons.

Under the agreement, the United States would end a decades-long moratorium on sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components and India would separate its civilian and military nuclear programs, and open the civilian facilities to international inspections. The pact fills in the broad outlines of a plan that was negotiated in July.

In Washington, Democratic and Republican critics said India’s willingness to subject some of its nuclear program to inspections was meaningless as long as the country has a secret military nuclear program alongside it, and that the pact would only encourage rogue nations like North Korea and Iran to continue to pursue nuclear weapons. They predicted a bruising fight in Congress, whose approval the pact needs.

At the same time, Bush said he was going forward with a trip on Friday to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, to meet with the country’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, despite a bombing Thursday morning outside a Marriott Hotel and the U.S. Consulate in Karachi. The bombing, a suspected suicide attack, left four dead, including an American Embassy employee.

“Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan,” Bush said at a joint news conference with Singh. “My trip to Pakistan is an important trip. It’s important to talk with President Musharraf about continuing our fight against terrorists. After all, he has had a direct stake in this fight; four times the terrorists have tried to kill him.”

In New Delhi, American and Indian negotiators working all night reached agreement on the nuclear deal at 10:30 a.m. Thursday local time — only two hours before Bush and Singh announced it — after the United States accepted an Indian plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities.

In the plan announced Thursday, India agreed permanently to classify 14 of its 22 nuclear power reactors as civilian facilities, meaning those reactors will be subject for the first time to international inspections or safeguards.

The other reactors, as well as a prototype fast-breeder reactor in the early stages of development, will remain as military facilities, and not be subject to inspections. India also retained the right to develop future fast-breeder reactors for its military program, a provision that critics of the deal called astonishing. In addition, India said it was guaranteed a permanent supply of nuclear fuel.

The separation plan, according to a senior Indian official, also envisions India-specific rules from the International Atomic Energy Agency, effectively recognizing India as a nuclear weapons state in “a category of its own.”

Both sides appeared eager to announce the agreement as the centerpiece of Bush’s first visit to India, and did so with few details at a triumphal news conference on the lush grounds of Hyderabad House, a former princely residence in the heart of this capital. But Bush acknowledged that the deal now faced a difficult battle for approval in Congress.