U.S., India Reach Deal on Nuclear Technology

President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announces a deal Thursday that would open most Indian nuclear reactors to international inspections. In exchange, India will get U.S. nuclear technology. Noah Adams talks with Don Gonyea about President Bush's trip and why India will not be pressured to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

But first, it was a productive day for President Bush on his first visit to India today.

President GEORGE BUSH: We concluded an historic agreement today on nuclear power. It's not an easy job for the Prime Minister to achieve this agreement. I understand. It's not easy for the American President to achieve this agreement, but it's a necessary agreement.

ADAMS: India and the U.S. signed a deal on nuclear cooperation that will give the world's largest democracy access to U.S. nuclear energy and technology for civilian purposes. It involves a change of law and Congress has to sign off. That's likely to prove controversial. India has nuclear weapons but has refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Joining us is NPR's Don Gonyea, who is traveling with the President. Don, this could be a big deal. In terms of being a good nuclear citizen, India's been somewhat difficult. Not along the lines of North Korea and Iran certainly, but they have refused to sign the treaty. What happen to make this possible?

DON GONYEA reporting:

And they have also conducted nuclear tests, which has brought lots of complaints from the U.S. and elsewhere. But what the President and State Department officials we've heard from here today, they all say is that the world has changed and that India is really a nation that's going through a very important positive transformation. It's a stable democracy. They have an important growing economy. It's a nation of more than a billion people. That despite refusing to sign that treaty, the U.S. says India has behaved almost as if it has.

It's not engaged in any kind of proliferation. So here we are with this deal being announced today.

ADAMS: Now because it will wind up on Capitol Hill eventually, lots of conditions on the deal. Tell us about them, please.

GONYEA: That's right. The most significant one is that India will have to allow inspectors in, international inspectors to come and look at their civilian reactors. India will have to completely separate its still existing military nuclear program. The complaint in the U.S. has been that this creates kind of a special exemption from the non-proliferation treaty for India, and there are concerns about that.

Then it also has to be approved by what's called the Nuclear Suppliers Group. That's the name for the group of nations that are nuclear powers and are all working together on non proliferation issues.

ADAMS: And the popular reaction throughout India. Some protests have happened?

GONYEA: Yes, there have been protests over the last couple of days, really since the President got here. In New Delhi and elsewhere across the country, tens of thousands of people in some of these places marching. Some are angry about this nuclear deal. Some are angry about globalization. Some are angry about the war in Iraq. Some are just, they just don't like President Bush's policies, so they're protesting his presence here.

But I can tell you, there is a great deal of security on the streets. Virtually every corner you go by there is somebody, a police officer or some military personnel with machine guns. Just really taking security very seriously.

ADAMS: The President will continue his first visit to South Asia by going to Pakistan, and there, there was a car bombing in Karachi which killed an American diplomat and several other people. What effect could that have on that visit to Pakistan?

GONYEA: Expect security already very high to be heightened. But the President made it clear today, he said if the terrorists think they're going to get me to change my schedule, they are wrong. So he will still be going to Islamabad for a day's worth of meetings. Again, the explosion was in Karachi. That's some 700 miles or so south of Islamabad, and they're very different parts of the country. So the President will proceed with his stop in Pakistan. But again, they do also recognize that it is a potentially dangerous place. So security will be extremely tight.

ADAMS: NPR's Don Gonyea talking with us from New Delhi. Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: My pleasure.

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