More to India-US relations than nuclear deal: Jimmy Carter

Friday, 27 October 2006, 07:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: Good relations between India and the U.S will not be "adversely affected" if the India-U.S civil nuclear deal does not clear the US Congressional process, former US President Jimmy Carter said here on Friday.

Carter, who returns to India after nearly three decades in his new avatar as a philanthropist building houses for the poor, however, said in the same breath: "I hope not."

Quoting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's address to the parliament early this year on the civil nuclear deal, he underlined that the July 18, 2005 understanding between India and the US on the nuclear deal remains the core of the civil nuclear deal between India and the US.

Carter will meet Manmohan Singh later in the day and discuss a whole host of issues including Nepal, the Middle East peace process and his pet philanthropic project of building houses for the poor. He has written a book on the Middle East peace process, which will be published next month.

Hailing India's emergence as a "major economic power," Carter stressed that there was much more to the growing India-US relations than the civil nuclear deal.

"Two great democracies must search for every possible way to cooperate economically, politically and militarily," he said at an interaction with select journalists.

Carter, a Democrat, was confident that the Democrats will control the House of Representatives after the Congressional elections next month, but tactfully desisted comments on what impact it will have on the India-US nuclear deal.

The US Senate is expected to vote on the civil nuclear deal in its lame duck session next month, but if the deal fails to pass the Senate, then the entire Congressional process will have to start from a scratch.

Carter and his wife Rosalynn, co-founders of the Carter Centre, an NGO dedicated to promoting human rights and alleviating poverty worldwide, will travel to Lonavala in Maharashtra next week to build 100 houses for the poor there as part of Habitat for Humanity's annual Jimmy Carter Work Project. They plan to build 30,000 houses for the 11 countries hit by the December 26, 2004 tsunami.

"My idea is to promote the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to discourage testing and development of nuclear weapons and the control of fissile material by the International Atomic Energy Agency," said Carter, who trained as a nuclear engineer and is known for its hawkish views on the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

When he last visited India in 1978 as the US president, he tried hard to pressurise the then Prime Minister Moraraji Desai into signing the CTBT.

"My concerns are global. All major powers must comply with the NPT," he stressed.

Carter, however, added that he had no objection to India reducing its independence on fossil fuels and generating atomic power.

Asked whether he will discuss the civil nuclear deal with Manmohan Singh, he said: "I am not here to influence the policy of India on nuclear power. I am here as a private citizen. If the prime minister brings up the issue, we will discuss it."

He is upbeat about the role of India in the new world order.

"There is no doubt that India is emerging as a major power economically. India has made remarkable progress," said Carter while rebutting speculation about the US using India as a counterweight to China.

Source: IANS
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