Transcript of Ambassador Ronen Sen's news conference on "The Forthcoming Visit of President George W. Bush to India-Strengthening the India-U.S. Partnership" held at the National Press Club (with Q&A)
AMBASSADOR SEN: Thank you, Mr. Peter Hickman,Ladies & Gentlemen,good morning to all of you I thank the National Press Club for inviting me to the Newsmakers Programme on the eve of President Bush’s visit to India.
Jawaharlal Nehru had once remarked that one should never visit the United States for the first time. The same holds true for India. When President Bush visits India for the first time, he will realize this. He will also find the aptness of the observation that whatever you say about India will be true. He will get a glimpse of a country of incredible diversity, of sharp contrasts and contradictions; a country with one of the world’s oldest civilizations and one of the world’s youngest populations; a vibrant democracy which is increasingly forward-looking and confident of overcoming formidable challenges. He will find public discourse, debate and even manifestations of dissent which are characteristics of free societies. The First Lady and the President will also find a warm welcome in a country where, notwithstanding a sometimes noisy minority, the predominant popular sentiment is for stronger partnership with the United States.
President Bush’s visit is taking place just seven months after the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington, DC in July last year. It is worth remembering in this context, that there was a gap of over two decades between the visits of President Carter and President Clinton to India. In between, in the 1980s, there were of course important contacts between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Ronald Reagan and President Bush Senior. As foreign and defence policy adviser to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, I vividly recall the remarkable warmth of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s relations with both Presidents Reagan and Bush, and also the initiation of cooperation in several areas between India and the United States at that time. However, the recent frequency of summit meetings and the intensification of bilateral contacts at all levels are unprecedented. They manifest not only the multi-dimensional character of our relationship but its long-term strategic nature. As the President Abdul Kalam pointed in his address to our Parliament on February 16th, 2006, “our relationship with the United States underwent a substantial transformation in 2005 and we carry forward our strategic partnership based on the July 18 Joint Statement” of President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington, DC last year.
We are confident that during the forthcoming visit of President Bush to India, and in the months and years to come, the close partnership between India and United States will continue to intensify and strengthen. This is not idle crystal-ball gazing but an objective recognition of the inherent strength and resilience of the growing strategic ties between the world’s largest and fastest growing democracy and the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy. Today these ties serve not only the interests of both countries but have a global significance.
India and the USA have overlapping or converging security interests, ranging from counter-terrorism to preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, from protecting sea lanes to fighting piracy; from natural disaster relief to peace-keeping. Last year, our countries completed the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, initiated by the previous Government in India, envisaging cooperation in space, nuclear energy, dual use technologies and missile defence. Last year, we also signed a 10 year defence framework document. The frequent joint exercises between our Armies, Navies, Air Forces, and Special Forces have contributed to mutual respect. There is shared interest in defence procurement and collaboration between our defence industries. Defence ties, by their very nature, are based on a foundation of mutual trust that builds incrementally, and on a vision of long-term commitments.
The 9/11 tragedy shocked the world and made it more aware of the scourge of terror. We had, ofcourse, been bearing the brunt of terrorism, emanating from our neighbourhood, for decades. Therefore, it was only natural that India and the USA chose to work together to combat this menace, which was not regional but global in character. Many years before 9/11, India and USA had established a joint working group against terrorism. We knew then, as we do today, that democracies remain the prime target of terrorism, and they are also the best defence against it.
For American business, India is increasingly seen as a land of opportunity and profit. Last year, US exports to India grew by around 30%, compared to 20% growth in Indian exports to the US. India-US bilateral merchandise trade amounts to nearly $ 27 billion annually. While this trade has grown over the years, it is way below the potential of the two economies. Similarly, the United States is one of the single largest foreign investors in India. The prediction that this is only the beginning of a more snow-balling effect in the coming years is based on ground realities. First, India’s economy has been growing at a rate of over 7% during the last 3 years. This year the growth rate is expected to be around 8%, and we are likely to sustain this rate of growth. Second, the expanding middle-income group resulted in a surge in consumer demand in India. Third, economic development also entails investment in infrastructure, energy, transportation and agriculture.
Finally, the process of economic reforms and liberalization is developing a momentum of its own, driven less by government decisions and increasingly by the demands of the growing economy. If Indian consumers are willing to buy and the Indian market gives one of the highest rates of return on investment, surely trade and investment will grow. Corporate America, with all its inherent strengths and advantages, will have increasing opportunity to forge closer ties with India.
Energy cooperation is another sector that demands a long-term vision and a strong foundation of trust. Last year, along with a revitalized Economic Dialogue, India and the USA also launched an Energy Dialogue that encompasses areas such as oil and gas, coal, power and energy efficiency, new technologies and renewable energy and civil nuclear energy. India’s economic growth will naturally generate a huge demand for energy. Our dependence on imported oil and gas will thus continue to grow in the future. Apart from environmentally friendly clear coal and hydro-electric power, our increased reliance on nuclear energy in the coming years can hardly be over-stated. We see similar priorities in the United States.
The civil nuclear understanding reached on July 18, 2005, meets three critical benchmarks: it meets US interests, it meets India’s interests and it meets the interests of the international community. India began its civil nuclear energy programme in the 1950s. In all these decades, there has not been one case of nuclear proliferation from India. Last year, we adopted laws that harmonized our already strict export control laws with the NSG and MTCR lists. Just because our commitment to nuclear non-proliferation was born out of our own sense of responsibility and restraint, its importance should not be minimized nor trivialized. On July 18th last year, India and USA undertook reciprocal commitments at the highest level to open civil nuclear cooperation. Both sides are in the process of implementing their reciprocal obligations.
In early years after independence, one of the wisest things our leaders did was to invest in human resource development. The institutes of science and technology, centers of excellence in agriculture and business as well as universities, have spawned over the decades a strong cadre of top quality professionals in all fields. Many of them migrated to the USA, contributing to this country’s economy and society. We in India will never forget that some of our early successes in building this base had strong US connections. Our cooperation with the US land grant universities helped set up agriculture institutes and promoted the green revolution that made us self-sufficient in food grains. Some of the finest institutes of technology in India were set up with US collaboration. Through our science and technology cooperation, we hope to combine our inherent strengths to meet common challenges. Bio-technology, nano-technology and information technology are some of the frontiers that our scientists can explore together.
In the early 1980s, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Reagan gave a fillip to science and technology cooperation, they knew that this will be one day the locomotive of development and bilateral ties. Today, we look forward to the application of high technology to once again give an impetus to agricultural productivity with a new knowledge initiative. India and the USA also have highly developed infrastructure in space. We have a new working group for space cooperation. A framework is being put in place for greater collaboration in this field in the future. It is perhaps a sign of the times that India will be carrying two US payloads in our moon mission in the near future.
One can say that, in a way, a decisive moment in India-US relations has arrived. As India grows and the US transforms its global diplomacy, our relations are destined to emerge as one of the strong pillars of the international system. The international community is confronted by many challenges. No State, however strong, can meet global challenges on its own. In the pressing need for international cooperation on critical issues, countries that share common values and have common interests find it easier to work together. India and the United States have a vital stake in an international environment conducive to democratic values. In both countries, India-US relations enjoy wide popular support. Internal debate in our societies and political establishments, natural in vibrant democracies, cannot obscure the vision of a strategic relationship reflected in the Joint Statement of July 18, 2005. The forthcoming visit of President Bush to India is thus full of promise to consolidate what has been achieved and to chart the course for the future.
MR. HICKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
We're open for questions. Please line up at the microphones and go from left to right. Identify yourself, please.
Question: Good morning. This is Golam Arshad. I write for the paper called the Telegraph and the Inqilab, from Bangladesh. Ambassador Sen, welcome. He has got deep roots in Bangladesh, so I salute my brother.
AMBASSADOR SEN: Thank you.
Question: The question is, President Bush's visit to India -- he's not touching Bangladesh -- the most pressing point that would also have some bearing on Bangladesh is the issue of sharing of intelligence between Washington, which -- Washington hopes that Dhaka, New Delhi and Islamabad come up with a formula. Do you think, Mr. Ambassador, is there any chance of any fruitful discussion to that effect? Because both these two countries really are the victim of terrorists. Could you please kindly highlight the issue, as a matter of fact, whether they would be a part of a discussion? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR SEN: Well, thank you. I -- in fact, talking of Bangladesh, I had not only served in Bangladesh, but my family has come from that part of the world. And this was before the first Bengal partition, in 1905, when my father moved from there as a young boy.
We are deeply conscious -- the United States and India are deeply conscious of the fact, as I referred to, that terrorism is not any local phenomena, like everything else it is becoming global, and the only way to handle this menace is to tackle it on a global basis. And that we are fully conscious of the developments in our immediate neighborhood as well as beyond which impact on our security and the well-being of all the people. So this -- we have a constant dialogue on this, and as I said, this dialogue is on -- and exchange of intelligence and cooperation has been going on between India and the United States much before 9/11.
Question: Ambassador, Aziz Hanifa with India Abroad. The prime minister a couple of days ago had said that all nuclear -- civilian nuclear facilities obtained under international agreements would be subject to IAEA safeguards. Will that include the Canadian-supplied CIRUS reactor, because it has become sort of a bone of contention, even though the agreement took place like 40 years ago, and during the recent communication between Senator Lugar and Nicholas Burns, questions on the CIRUS reactor and how India is going to place it figured in almost five to six questions. So could you talk about the prime minister's statement, and whether the CIRUS reactor will be placed on the civilian list and subject to IAEA safeguards, because Canada has also requested that it be placed on the civilian list?
AMBASSADOR SEN: I would not like to comment in detail the ongoing discussions which will continue during the visit of Undersecretary Nicholas Burns to India; coming Thursday and Friday. But knowing a little on the subject, due to my old association with the Atomic Energy Commission of India, I would say that no country has alleged that India has broken any law, whether with regard to the CIRUS reactor or any other -- any other issue concerning our international obligations. But we have taken note of the sentiments which have been expressed in Canada and in some sections in the United States, and this will be kept in view.
Question: KP Nayar from The Telegraph.
I have a question that goes back to your -- based on the Department of Atomic Energy and when you were secretary of the Atomic Energy Commission, because I believe that experience has been valuable input in crafting the July 18th Statement and the ongoing negotiations. My question is, what would be the impact on India's thorium cycle if the fast-breeder reactors are put under safeguards 10 years or 20 years from now?
AMBASSADOR SEN: Mr. Nayar, as I said, I won't like to comment on these discussions. They are still ongoing.
But I can tell you that the three-stage program envisaged by India by Dr. Homi Bhabha in the '40s -- in fact, before independence -- remains in place, and it will remain in place and we will pursue a fast-breeder program and then hopefully to utilization of India's vast reserves of thorium for producing the much needed energy in India.
Question: Ambassador Sen, thank you for coming. Mike Lavale from TBS.
I know you don't want to comment on the upcoming nuclear power agreement, but I'm wondering that the negotiators are working very hard to try to get this deal done before the president's visit. I'm wondering what you see as the main obstacles still out there to get the agreement signed, and what the chances are that they will reach fulfillment before the president's visit?
And secondly, I'm also wondering what this says about the maturity of the U.S.-India relationship that the U.S. is willing to sign this very unique agreement -- and some would say risky agreement -- with India to look forward in a strategic context.
AMBASSADOR SEN: Well, it's a unique agreement, but I don't think it's a risky agreement. As I said that -- in fact, our track record -- our actual track record in nonproliferation, considering that, you know, for a country which has had this nuclear capability for something like five decades, is something that I'm proud of. And it is something which is unique, and our track record, I'll say without any false sense of modesty, has been in fact much better than many of the countries which are now currently members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
But this is unique, because India is, in the nuclear context, a unique country. It is -- we're the first country in Asia to build a reactor on our own. We were the first country in the world to come out with ideas like a nuclear test ban, ideas on the need for tackling the issue of proliferation of weapons. And we are the only country which actually -- we had the capability to conduct a nuclear test before the NPT came into force, and if we did that, there wouldn't be any questions of the type we are hearing today. But it was a political decision not to conduct these tests, in the hope -- and as it appears, it was rather utopian -- in the hope that the world would generally be free of nuclear weapons by the end of the last century. This did not happen.
But India's case is unique, as the irony that a country which has been, you might say, the target of the Non- Proliferation Regime and been sanctioned, et cetera, also having a record of nonproliferation, continuously -- I mean, in place for decades, much before the proliferation -- nonproliferation regimes were not only codified, but they were not even conceived of at that time. So it's a unique case, and you might say to recognize the uniqueness of India's position, this agreement has been finalized. And it took some vision on the part of President Bush to recognize its reality and to see that India can be a strong ally in combatting nonproliferation, because it's in its own interest. We are doing this in our own interest, as we have been doing for the last five decades.
Earlier, we were worried about the spread of these dangerous weapons. And now we are doubly concerned because a new dimension has been added, that is the fear of the weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, landing up in the wrong hands in what we call non-state actors -- in plain English, terrorist organizations.
Question: Raghubir Goyal, India Globe & Asia Today. Mr. Ambassador, being a member of the White House press corps -- some of my colleagues are also here -- if I may ask you, that this will be the first presidential -- or Republican president who will be visiting India in over 35 years. What do you think you have advice for this president, Mr. Bush, and how this visit will be different than the last visit by President Clinton in 2000, in which I was also accompanying him, and this time also I will be accompanying the President Bush. I'm sure President Bush is in touch with President Clinton about the last visit. But can you put some of your advice that how this visit could be the best of his visits to India that he's looking forward?.
AMBASSADOR SEN: Well, I would not be presumptuous enough to sort of advise the president in this manner. I would only say that a very warm welcome awaits the first lady and president, and we recognize that the role which the president has played in giving not only a new impetus to this relationship, relationship between the United States and India, but taking it to new heights, and the higher you go, the wider the horizons, and he's really taken this to strategic heights. And so we are conscious of the fact.
Compared to -- I think no two visits can be compared. But if we refer to the days of the Eisenhower visit, those were different days. I mean, you had people traveling and, you know, the president traveling with the prime minister in open motorcade, hundreds and thousands of people on the streets. I'm afraid that those days are gone now, since the visit will be of a different character, where he will not in that sense feel the vibrancy of our democracy, which is real.
But I think he'll get other -- he will glimpse other manifestations of this.
And it was also not the same as during the visit of President Clinton, because there again, there were the threats of terrorist violence, but the threats have since then increased manyfold. So it will be a different visit, but it's going to be, I am sure, a very successful visit, and I am absolutely confident that it's a visit which will be one he will remember and cherish and a visit which will be truly a milestone in our relationship.
Question: Dan Horner from McGraw-Hill Nuclear Publications. And my question also is about the nuclear agreement. In the speech from Foreign Secretary Saran that you include in the packet, he says toward the end: It makes no sense for India to deliberately keep some of its civilian facilities out of a declaration for safeguards purposes. If it is really interested in obtaining international cooperation on as wide a scale as possible, this would be quite illogical. And U.S. officials cited this statement as indicating that India and the U.S. are sort of thinking along the same lines in this area. But by all accounts, the discussions haven't gone that way, that in fact there is a lot of contentiousness over the relatively small number of facilities that India is at least initially inclined to declare as civilian. So can you comment on that and explain the apparent shift in the Indian attitude with regard to these negotiations? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR SEN: I don't think that this is any shift in attitudes. When we have negotiations between any two parties, these negotiations are aimed at facilitating a solution. And I think there has been undue focus only on one aspect; that is, the separation of civilian and military facilities in India. Apart from, you know, the remaining obligations which have to be filled, there are two obligations by the United States of America and there are two obligations assumed by India.
One of the obligations assumed by India is to separate military and civilian facilities, and the second is to conclude an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency on safeguard regime. The two corresponding obligations of the United States are to get -- to persuade the U.S. Congress to support the July 18th agreement, and second is to persuade the members of the Nuclear Supplies Group to support the agreement.
So we have corresponding obligations on both sides, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Prime Minister and the Government of India remain committed to fulfilling its obligations. And we are equally confident that President Bush and the U.S. administration remain committed to fulfilling the obligations assumed by the United States.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, Carol Giacomo with Reuters. Some very prominent experts -- nonproliferation experts in this town are saying that this nuclear agreement will allow India to preserve its indigenous fuel material for nuclear weapons, while using the imported fuel for civilian reactors. In other words, you know, it's going to allow India to produce more nuclear weapons. How do you respond to that criticism? Is it fair?
And to the extent that you talk about a growing strategic relationship between the United States and India, you know, 30 years ago the United States, the proponents of a strategic relationship with China made a lot of the same arguments in terms of growing ties between those two countries, and yet today China is seen by many people in this administration and around town as a growing adversary.
How do you prevent that similar fate in the U.S.-India relationship?
AMBASSADOR SEN: Thank you. Thanks, Carol. Your first question, I don't think the criticism that this agreement would help India, you know, to further augment its strategic nuclear program, holds water because we have had this program and we don't require any outside assistance for this program.
And we have developed these technologies on our own, as I said, right from the '50s, and we have not obtained them through covert means from third countries or under covert agreements with third countries. So program is going to continue, irrespective of whether you have this agreement or you don't have this agreement.
The second question -- so this agreement is basically about energy and meeting the requirements of energy. And as I said, it meets -- it is in the interests of both our countries -- the United States and India -- and the international community.
The second question is that you said about -- something about how, you're focusing today on strategic relations, and the situation can change. The likelihood of that is remote because this is one relationship where, I said it before and it bears repetition, we don't have difficulty in reconciling principle and practice or the interests with -- vital national interests with values because this is based on shared values and common concerns, shared values which are of an abiding nature -- democracy and the rule of law; and shared concerns -- that is I pointed out the common concerns faced by democracies, which also happen to be the prime targets of terrorism. You don't have any democracy which is harboring terrorists anywhere in the world, but you have them as targets.
So we have -- if you look at the long term, not just the short and medium term, I do not foresee any situation in which there would be a clash of basic national interests between India and the United States. We might have -- even on areas where we are agree on the final outcome, we might have differences of approach on how to resolve certain issues. Like we could have differences, and we did have a difference in approach on Iraq, for instance. But we have no difference at all in the desirability and the necessity of Iraq emerging as a stable, sovereign democracy and contributing to stability in that area.
Question: What about Iran, though? You have some very fundamental differences on Iran.
AMBASSADOR SEN: That is not reflected in the voting pattern, because on both occasions we voted -- because our independent assessments, it's not that we are following the United States. I will tell you one thing, India is not a country which can ever be a follower of any other country. But we can be good, reliable strategic partners in pursuing common objectives.
So we have, as you just pointed out very aptly -- in Iran, we value deeply and we cherish our long civilization history with the people of Iran, which goes back to a millennia. But on this issue, we believe that Iran has undertaken on its own certain responsibilities and commitments, and we believe that Iran should honor these commitments. And we also believe that it is not in our own interest. We already have two countries in our immediate neighborhood with nuclear weapons and we don't want a third country.
So we will be on this issue when we keep various factors into account, but the assessment is out, and the final judgement on how we will vote will be -- is taken and will be taken in Delhi and not in any other capital.
But the fact is that our positions have coincided.
Question: Julian Josephson . I'm an independent science writer here in the Washington area. Mr. Ambassador, shift gears a little bit. With India developing economically and so rapidly, this can have, shall we say, serious environmental consequences if care isn't taken. One can perhaps cite the example of your large neighbor to the north there, which has had some environmental consequences recently.
I wonder if you could address the Indian effort to be stewards over the environment while at the same time having a healthy and rapid economic growth?
AMBASSADOR SEN: Thank you. That's a very good question. And incidentally, one of the factors -- on this nuclear issue, you know, the debate I think has been hijacked over here by nonproliferation theologians, and in India by those rallying under the banner of self- reliance, even though it might not be conducive to our overall self- interest.
One of the issues is that we will have no option but to go -- if we do not have nuclear energy, because we are cut off from sources of natural gas. And if you look at our neighborhood, it's a very unstable neighborhood. We do not know -- and we import something like 70 percent of our oil requirements. That might go up. We don't know whether it's going to be $30 or $40 a barrel or a hundred -- or whatever -- dollars a barrel. Wild fluctuations. So we have to, in any case, reduce our dependence on hydrocarbons, both for our longer- term energy security as well as one of the other factors was the environment. Because if we don't have adequate access to alternative sources of energy, and particularly nuclear energy, which is stable and we have the manpower -- we have probably the largest number of engineers and scientists in this area who are competent, and dealing with the subject for something like five decades.
If you don't have the alternative, the alternative is not going to be perpetuation of poverty. We are going to burn that coal. And our coal is dirty coal. It's of high -- very high ash content.
So if the answer is perpetuation of poverty, that's no answer. We will have to take the course of -- we -- it'll be at the cost of our health and the health of this planet, Earth, this fragile planet.
So there are some -- many issues of this nature which are involved in this civil nuclear agreement which we are talking about today. Thank you.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, you have rightfully said that the upcoming visit of President Bush to India --
I'm sorry. My name is Hasmukh Shah from Business Times. Please forgive me for not -- (inaudible).
Anyway, the president's trip to India is full of promises, for both the countries. That's very right.
But unfortunately, so far there is -- no official announcement has been made about the upcoming visit exactly -- itinerary, other things. And the CEOs of multinational corporations are also, I mean, concerned about the -- what are the programs or other things. Can you please show some light about -- without compromising the security, but when he is arriving in India, what is the program? Is there -- so far, nobody knows. And many people call us to find out, and I say I have no pipeline to White House. Anyway, I would appreciate it if you can give some light. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR SEN: It'll be -- in due course of time, the program will be announced. (Laughter.)
Question: All right. Thank you. Gopal Ratnam from Defense News. A different question.
In the last few weeks, the United States has characterized its struggle in the fight against terrorism as a long war. I was wondering if India agrees with that characterization or if it subscribes to that idea of a long war against terrorism.
And the second question is, if there is agreement on that subject, is that part of the discussion that President Bush is likely to have in India? And sort of related to that, is the United States seeking India's cooperation on this so-called long war?
AMBASSADOR SEN: As I just mentioned in my opening remarks, India has been fighting this menace for over two decades now. And we hope it's not going to be a long war, but we'll continue to combat it, this phenomena, dangerous phenomena, as long as it exists. I personally have no illusions that it's not going to be something which will just disappear one day. It's going to be a process. We have to be prepared for that. And there's no way in which we can compromise on this.
And I also mentioned that our cooperation with the United States dates back to before 9/11, but at that time perhaps the urgency with which -- urgency was not appreciated to the extent that we think it deserved. For instance, just before 9/11, we were having discussions with the European Union, and on the list of items of priority for the U.N. General Assembly meeting that year, we didn't find these words -- we found two more words missing -- that's international terrorism -- on the long list of other items.
And I remember we were sort of arguing about that, and people were sympathetic but sometimes somewhat condescending in describing this as a local phenomena which would go away once local causes were addressed. But very shortly thereafter, we had this very traumatic experience which shook us all. And in a sense it was a wake-up call that it's not local, it's not caused by local causes or root causes or whatever you might not call it, because if that were so, India would be turning over a large number of terrorists.
It's a phenomena which we just cannot accept. And so -- so I've given you -- I don't know if they will be in it for the long haul, but I've certainly given you a very long answer to your question.
Question: Would you kind of briefly talk about what areas of cooperation, if any, on this particular subject --
AMBASSADOR SEN: Across the board -- across the board from sharing of intelligence to all -- I mean, this is a common threat, and we know that you don't have any sort of -- you can't compartmentalize it into various groups of terrorist organizations. They change names, they mutate. It's a phenomena which has to be tackled wherever it occurs. It's a hydra-headed monster.
Question: Thank you very much. My name is Toshi Umihara (ph). I am from the Asahi Shimbun Japanese newspaper.
Two quick questions going back to the Nonproliferation Treaty that you just referred.
Is India a nuclear weapons state or a non-nuclear weapons state?
And another question is, regardless of your answer, how do you think international community can be assured that India would fulfill responsibility for nuclear disarmament under which if nuclear -- if India is a nuclear weapons state?
AMBASSADOR SEN: India has nuclear weapons. The July 18th Agreement assumes this. In fact, it goes by this premise when it talks about separation of military and civil facilities. Though the Nonproliferation Treaty has not been amended to give it a de jure status; de facto it is, a nuclear weapons state.
But as I said in my preceding remarks and observations, our track record in nonproliferation -- there's no need for anybody to give an assurance. Our assurance has been -- the facts have spoken much louder than any words which I can say.
There has not been one case of proliferation of nuclear weapons, of nuclear materials, equipment and technologies from India. Our track record, as I said, is much better than others.
Second fact I want to point out is, some of those who are the most sanctimonious about the spread of nuclear weapons and preventing it also happen to be sitting under some kind of umbrella of -- perched under some umbrella which guarantees them protection in case of a nuclear strike.
Question: Parameswaran from Agence France-Press. Sir, when you said that it was in India's own interest to pursue this deal with the United States, why didn't it go through the NPT, and why to the U.S.? And what is India's views on the NPT?
The second question is, how do you see the India-France civilian nuclear deal in relation to this upcoming thing with the United States? And whether the deal with France is a way -- it has looked at by people -- some consider it as France undercutting the United States, and some seeing it as a move by the international community to bring India to the civilian deal.
AMBASSADOR SEN: I didn't quite understand your question, but let me say that both the United States and -- the initiative has been taken by the United States, but one of the obligations assumed by the government of the United States and U.S. administration is to get other people of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, other countries belonging to the Nuclear Suppliers Group on board. And France has indicated very clearly that it does support this agreement, so there is no question of one country preempting the other, because I think both France and the United States share this view, but the initiative is that of the United States in this case.
And with regard to the Nonproliferation Treaty, I have made it clear that we have reservations -- we had reservations and we continue to have reservations about this treaty, but we have never, ever sought to undermine it.
Question: Just one quick one. Priscilla Huff with ANI. President Bush is also going to visit Pakistan. Where is Kashmir and India's relations with its neighbor, Pakistan, going to fit into the talks going forward?
AMBASSADOR SEN: I don't see with regard to to the issue, our differences with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir figures in our composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, and we do not see any role whatsoever by any third party in this regard.