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Ahead of Nuclear Security Summit, US seeks deeper cooperation with India

Ahead of Nuclear Security Summit, US seeks deeper cooperation with India

Washington: Meeting in the shadow of Brussels and Lahore terror attacks, leaders from 50 nations including Prime Minister Narendra Modi are gathering here to discuss how to reduce the threat posed by nuclear terrorism. The 4th and last Nuclear Security Summit here under President Barack Obama's watch on March 31 and April 1 caps off a six year long effort to prevent terrorists and other non state actors from gaining access to nuclear materials and technologies.

A senior administration official said here Tuesday that the US looked at Modi's presence "as a chance to highlight steps that India has taken in its own nuclear security to go beyond, perhaps, some of the activities that it has done before."

"We really would like to see an even deeper bilateral cooperation with India proceed going forward out of the summit," Laura Holgate, special assistant to the President told foreign media in a preview of the summit.

"So I hope that that will be something that we can work on more closely going forward," said the official who also serves as senior director for weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction at the National Security Council.

Asked to spell out what more the US expected India to do in the coming days to secure its own nuclear facilities, Holgate said: "I'll let India speak for itself on those points. It's not for me to characterize their steps that they're taking."

"But we - every country can do better, and we're eager to work with any country who wishes to work with us to improve nuclear security," she added.

In response to a question about concerns expressed to US Congress about Pakistan's deployment of weapon-grade nuclear weapons, a senior official said the US has "a very solid cooperation with Pakistan on nuclear security."

"They have developed their own Nuclear Security Centre of Excellence in recent years," said Rose Gottemoeller, under secretary of state for Arms Control and International Security. "We continue to work with them on the nuclear security front."

"Our concerns regarding the continuing deployment of battlefield nuclear weapons by Pakistan relate to a reality of the situation: When battlefield nuclear weapons are deployed forward, they can represent an enhanced nuclear security threat," Gottemoeller said.

"It's more difficult to sustain positive control over systems that are deployed forward. We found this lesson ourselves out in Europe during the years of the Cold War," she said.

"And so I do think that that is a reality of the situation. It's not related particularly to any one country," Gottemoeller said. "Wherever battlefield nuclear weapons exist, they represent particular nuclear security problems."

On Friday, Pakistan's top nuclear security adviser, Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, rejected calls from the US to curb Pakistan's reliance on tactical nuclear weapons.

"We are not apologetic about the development of the TNWs [tactical nuclear weapons] and they are here to stay," he said at a seminar in Islamabad following Gottemoeller's testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"So, we are really quite concerned about this, and we have made our concerns known, and we will continue to press them about what we consider to be the destabilizing aspects of their battlefield nuclear weapons programme," she told the panel.

Modi who is making his third visit to the US in two years reflecting the transformation in India-US ties is expected to have a separate bilateral meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the summit.

He was also expected to meet with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, but the latter has cancelled his Washington visit in the wake of Lahore attacks.

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