August 08, 2020
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"I Want A Sanctions- Free Relationship"

Karl 'Rick' Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South Asia in the US State Department, talked in Washington about Indo-US rela tions, the CTBT, and India's nuclear programme. Excerpts:

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"I Want A Sanctions- Free Relationship"

India and the US have no direct conflict in terms of security and strategic concerns. Then why doesn’t the US accept the ground reality of India’s nuclear weaponisation?

No one disputes the reality of the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan. However, those tests present a challenge to US national security interests— specifically our pursuit of global non-proliferation. We have argued strongly with our Indian counter-parts that nuclear weapons do not guarantee greater security. In senior- level dialogues, we have sought to reconcile India’s security concerns with international non- proliferation concerns, to achieve a "harmonisation," as Jaswant Singh has put it, of our views. We believe the steps we are asking India to take are in India’s own security interests. We intend to con-tinue to pursue this goal with whatever government is formed in India. We also think some in India tend to underestimate the impact its nuclear and missile deci-sions may have on other states.

What happens to the assurance given by Jaswant Singh to Strobe Talbott that India would sign the CTBT by June/ July?

I do not think that Jaswant Singh would agree that he gave such an assurance, nor would I. We did discuss the possibility of accelerating the pace of our work, but that was very much dependent on developing the necessary support within both our countries, including public and parliamentary support. From our perspective, we continue to believe that joining the CTBT as soon as possible is in India’s interest. Last September, prime minister Vajpayee held out the prospect of India adhering to the CTBT by September. We hope the next government will see things the same way.

If India generally falls in line with the CTBT , FMCT and MTCR without rolling back its nuclear and missile programme, might the US lift sanctions, particularly on dual use technology?

We have already waived a number of sanctions as a result of our progress with India on non- proliferation and security issues; further progress is possible. We’ve not engaged in horsetrading over sanctions, as that does not befit two great nations discussing such serious matters. I want to see a sanctions   free relationship between  India and the US as soon as possible. Based upon the appreciation of India’s security imperatives in the course of eight rounds of talks, I think it is realistic to hope that Indian policy will evolve in ways that will take sanctions off the table.

China’s been accused of stealing secrets from top defence laboratories in the US. Do you now understand India’s security concerns vis- a- vis China?

We may have some differences of view, but we are certainly aware of India’s security concerns about China. We are doing a great deal to discuss such matters in our senior- level dialogue with India, including sending one of our leading experts on China to New Delhi for consultations. Many of the issues have also been a part of our dialogue with China. We believe that it’s important for India and China to have their own senior-level dialogue for a more accurate understanding of the other’s concerns.

Do you believe that South Asia is headed for an expensive arms race or that India and Pakistan’s recent detente is in jeopardy?

We regretted the missile tests because they could lead to an arms race. Whether such a race develops will depend on India and Pakistan. Both have indicated that the missile tests would not derail the Lahore process, and we urge New Delhi and Islamabad to press on.

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