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Manmohan in US next week for n-security summit


New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will join 43 global leaders in Washington next week for a summit on nuclear safety that aims to strengthen the mechanism to prevent nuclear devices from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The summit is being held at the initiative of US President Barack Obama.

Speaking to reporters here Sunday, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said India saw the summit as an “important element in strengthening the international resolve to cooperate on nuclear security and supporting the expanded use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

“This will be to India’s benefit, given our concerns on terrorism as well as our interest in the expansion of civil nuclear energy,” she said, adding: “We have welcomed this initiative and have contributed substantively to the summit’s preparations.”

The prime minister will reach Washington on the afternoon of April 12 and attend a dinner hosted at the White House for the 40-plus visiting leaders, including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao.

“The discussions at the dinner will focus on the threat of nuclear terrorism, the primary reason why the summit has been convened,” said Rao.

When asked if the summit will discuss Iran’s or Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Rao noted that the meeting was “not about a country-specific situation”.

To a question on Iran not being invited to the summit as it was not a “responsible” nation, Rao asserted, “Iran is a responsible country”.

On April 13, there will be two plenary sessions focusing on national measures and on international cooperation to enhance nuclear security, which will be attended leaders from 44 countries.

A working lunch would be addressed by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano.

The summit will conclude with the release of an outcome document, which has been under negotiations for the last six months by senior officials, called Sherpas.

“I have led a team of DAE (department of atomic energy) and MEA (ministry of external affairs) officials in discussions on the summit outcome at meetings of the Sherpas in Tokyo and The Hague. The Sherpas will also meet in Washington on the eve of the summit,” Rao said.

On India’s participation in international efforts to curb nuclear terrorism, Rao pointed out that New Delhi had been “piloting” a resolution at United Nations to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

“We are also active in the works of IAEA on setting and enforcing standards on physical protection of nuclear material and facilities as well as on combating illicit trafficking in nuclear material,” she said.

India is also party to international treaties like the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 amendment and is also participating in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

India is in the midst of a surge in civil nuclear energy production, after it got an exception from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 to take part in nuclear trade despite not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.

The catalyst for the process had been the bilateral agreement between India and US for civilian nuclear cooperation.

Since then, India has signed several agreements with other countries like Russia, France and Kazakhstan.

However, India has concerns about the safety of nuclear installations in Pakistan, which has been the location of activity of several Islamist terror groups.

India had previously also raised objections over the network of A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, which had been active in providing technology and materials in countries like North Korea and Libya.