India on Saturday dispelled unusual apprehensions about its nuclear assets and spelt out the norms for extending help to Afghanistan into the future.

National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon assured participants at an international conference here that they “don't need to worry about Left-wing extremism affecting the security of our nuclear assets.”

He told the ninth Asia Security Summit, being organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, that he was holding out the assurance as an insider with “some knowledge of this issue.” He was answering questions on the Maoist militancy in India its nuclear-asset security.

In his plenary address, Mr. Menon said: “India is the only nuclear-weapon state to announce an unequivocal no-first-use commitment and to declare that a world without nuclear weapons will enhance our security.” This was projected as a more substantive policy than Beijing's no-first-use principle, although China was not mentioned at all.

On the Maoist menace, Mr. Menon said: “We will combat it [Left-wing extremism] in two ways. One is, of course, the immediate law and order issue... But there is [also] a larger issue of making our growth more inclusive, so that we can remove whatever causes there might be for disaffection.”

As for the “very few and small areas affected by it,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that “Left-wing extremism is probably the major internal security challenge.” Underlining the internal nature of the problem, Mr. Menon said: “It doesn't have the kind of external links that we have seen other terrorist challenges having in the past or the kind of external support” they received. India was “located beside the epicentre of global terrorism.”

It was in India's interest to continue helping Afghanistan. “By our standards,” New Delhi's current programme of assistance there was “relatively large.” And, India's future role “will depend on what Afghanistan wants us to do and on the limitations of our capacity.” Asked whether India might replace the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Mr. Menon said: “I would be amazed if we did. I don't think that's our function.”

Asked whether the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation could be drafted for transnational responses to new challenges, he said: “We don't need to overload it.”

On energy issues, he said a sense of security “is really the key among the new dimensions of security” that India now faced. “We need to avoid the tragedy of the commons” over competitive national pursuits of security in this sector.

Asked about the recent Brazil-Turkey intervention with regard to Tehran's nuclear programme, Mr. Menon said: “Iran has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy... [The Brazil-Turkey initiative] tried to [recognise this] in a manner which assuaged or addressed international concerns about the nature of the programme and its peaceful nature in particular. That is an issue [over] which ultimately the International Atomic Energy Agency is probably the best judge. Whether or not the Brazilian and the Turkish initiative managed to do that, I am not so sure: on the objective evidence, not yet.”

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