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US Ambassador Confident India Will Not Conduct Nuclear Tests

A U.S. diplomat says details of a nuclear energy agreement with India will soon be made public. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi that since the deal was announced on Friday there has been considerable speculation about its contents and whether it will win approval from U.S. lawmakers.

The U.S. Ambassador to India says the text of the landmark civil nuclear-cooperation agreement between Washington and New Delhi will be released in a "matter of a few days."

The agreement that followed two years of contentious technical negotiations was announced Friday. But there has been considerable speculation about - as Indian commentators have put it - whether India "mortgaged" its right to conduct future nuclear weapons tests.

Ambassador David Mulford, speaking to reporters in India via telephone from the U.S. state of Wisconsin, said Washington expects no more atomic tests by India.

"We are assuming and operating on the basis that the situation will not occur and that India's commitment to its unilaterally declared moratorium on [nuclear] testing will hold up," said Mulford.

Nuclear tests by India in 1974 and 1988 led to it being ostracized from the world civil nuclear materials marketplace.

The U.S.-India deal, known as the 123 Agreement for the reference to the non-proliferation controls section of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, will mean energy-hungry India will get assistance from the United States to massively expand its nuclear power program.

Ambassador Mulford warned India that U.S. lawmakers, which must approve the deal, will be influenced by New Delhi's moves regarding its burgeoning security and economic ties with Iran, a potentially major energy supplier to India.

"India's relationship with Iran will be very carefully reviewed and scrutinized by members of Congress as they approach the final vote on the 123 Agreement," said Mulford.

The United States and other countries suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its energy program, and are concerned about possible cooperation with India.

The U.S. agreement with India is politically sensitive for the Bush administration because of concerns that India will be allowed to reprocess spent atomic fuel, which is a key step in making nuclear weapons.

India won the reprocessing rights in exchange for offering to put a new, dedicated reprocessing facility under full international safeguards.

Some U.S. lawmakers say the unprecedented deal could send the wrong message on proliferation at a time when the United States and other countries have been pressing nations, such as Iran and North Korea to end their nuclear-weapons ambitions.

Before the deal is submitted to the U.S. Congress for approval, India first must conclude separate agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-country Nuclear Suppliers Group.