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India has begun recharging N programmes: Kerry

By Aziz Haniffa
Last updated on: October 28, 2009 00:53 IST
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Diplomatic observers and foreign policy wonks were left perplexed trying to figure out what Senator John F Kerry meant when he said India had begun "to reinvigorate its own programme there", which he described as "absurd on both sides".

Kerry said this when he was asked whether the US was keeping a watch on the possibility of nuclear proliferation from Pakistan.

Was Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, doubting on India's impeccable track record on nonproliferation, was the question on everyone's mind.

Especially because Kerry was the one person who during the run-up and debate on the US-India civilian nuclear deal had supported the agreement and voted for it and even showered praise on India for its impeachable nuclear proliferation controls.

Kerry said, "We've had many conversations about safety, about what is happening (with the Pakistanis)," he said, and added: "There's increased cooperation."

But then Kerry added, "I think India's recent decision to reinvigorate its own programme there -- which is absurd on both sides to be honest with you -- may spark some further conversation about how we get even further controls."

Kerry's press spokeswoman Tomeika Bowden, when contacted by for a clarification on the remarks -- since it had left many diplomatic observers wondering whether the recent controversy over the efficacy of India's Pokhran tests had made the likes of Kerry believe that India had "reinvigorated" its nuclear weapons programme -- said she had no clue about what Kerry had meant.

Kerry reiterated that no conditions had been attached to the massive aid package to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar bill, which he had co-authored, that impinged on its sovereignty or attempts to micromanage this aid.

He said he had reassured the Pakistani leadership and army on this score during his recent visit.

"I don't understand the haggling over USD 1.5 billion (Rs 70.5 billion) a year in aid to Pakistan when more than USD 243 billion (Rs 11,427 billion) had been spent in Afghanistan by the US," he said.

He said that although there were conditions in the House bill with regard to Pakistan dismantling terror networks on its territory and the ISI ceasing support to extremist groups as well as Islamabad providing access to those like A Q Khan, but there were no such conditions in the Senate bill.

"There's an excess of sensitivity and I understand the politics. I was just in Pakistan, I just met with (Pakistan Muslim League-N chief) Nawaz Sharif, President (Asif) Zardari, (Pakistani Army chief) General Kiyani, and I understand the sensitivity to these things in the country and we are not trying to be oblivious to that."

But, he said, the US Congress was right in asking for a report on how the funds were being used by Pakistan, "because the American people have a right to know that their money is being spent to support values that are important to us as Americans".

"…We need to be much more sensitive to their (Pakistani) sensibilities as to how we can proceed forward to empower them to be able to change the view of the United States in Pakistan," he said.

"I think there are some immediate opportunities," he said. "There is a campaign in Waziristan right now and there will be at least 400,000 displaced persons. Just as in the Swat Valley, we moved in rapidly to provide assistance. If people had a sense that we are there for humanitarian purposes and relationship building with the people… we will stand a better chance of rebuilding America's relationship."

But Kerry acknowledged, "For the moment, they view it (American involvement) in the context of (predator) drones and war and the persistent requests from us to heighten their efforts against extremists" and that all of this "results in collateral impact".

He said it was imperative to help "even more effectively in Pakistan," and to "look at the resource disparity".

Kerry pointed out that USD 243 billion had gone "to Afghanistan and many people have talked about the multiples of importance toward Pakistan, and we are haggling over USD 1.5 billion in civilian assistance".

"I mean, it just doesn't make sense," he said. "If we were to put much more effort into their (Pakistan's) ability to transition to make Waziristan a success, Swat Valley a success, and ultimately to actually incorporate the Western part of their country more formally into the nation, we have a better chance of limiting the Al Qaeda and protecting our interests."

Kerry added, "I see a path there, and it's a very important path for us to pursue in this strategy."
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Aziz Haniffa in Washington