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Indian PM Says Renewed US-Indo Partnership Will Strengthen Both Nations


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday that strengthened U.S.-India ties would benefit both countries. The prime minister praised the nuclear cooperation accord that he and President Bush signed earlier this week.

The Indian leader says U.S. support of India's peaceful nuclear energy program can benefit his country just as American support for India's so-called Green Revolution did.

"The cooperation between American land [agricultural] colleges and our institutions of research in agriculture gave rise to that phenomenon of miracle new wheat seeds, which made it possible for our agriculture to grow phenomenally since the mid-60's. I thank America for that. We now seek to build on that past tradition of working together while forging a new partnership with the United States," he said.

Prime Minister Singh spoke Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington.

He said this new partnership is focused on fighting global terrorism, cooperation on energy issues and increased business and trade ties.

The growing demand for energy in rapidly developing economies such as India and China is increasing the pressure on the world oil market. Economists say higher oil prices will hurt all countries, including the United States, which is why Prime Minister Singh said access to energy resources is an issue of particular importance to Indo-U.S. relations.

"So it is in the interest of the rest of the world to help India meet its energy demands, through among other things, expansion of nuclear energy. And that's why I came here and discussed with the president that, taking into account India's impeccable record in the field of nonproliferation, we must find ways and means to end these restrictive regimes, which in the past have prevented India from making use of these new technologies for the development of its power sector," he said.

The so-called "restrictive regimes" the prime minister referred to is a ban on American nuclear technology sales to India. The ban was imposed because India is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, or NPT. While some arms control experts criticized the president's decision to lift the ban, the Bush administration argues that under the new agreement India has agreed to nuclear controls that are in essence the same as those controls laid out in the NPT.

However, the sensitive nature of the new accord prompted the State Department to take steps to ease concerns of India's neighbor and rival, Pakistan. Before leaving on a trip to Africa and the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, to assure him that increased U.S.-Indian cooperation would not come at Pakistan's expense.

Prime Minister Singh echoed these remarks Wednesday.

"I don't think either Pakistan or China has to worry that our relationship with the United States comes at their cost. We are committed to improving our relations both with Pakistan and with China," he said.

On relations with Pakistan, the prime minister said he was committed to using all authorized means to normalize relations, but he warned that the relationships between the two neighbors could deteriorate if Pakistan continues to let Islamic militants use Pakistani territory to launch attacks in Kashmir.

Earlier Wednesday, at least six people were killed and more than a dozen wounded by a car bomb in Indian-controlled Kashmir. An Islamic militant group opposed to India's presence in Kashmir claimed responsibility for the attack.

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