Seeking international cooperation in its efforts for a major expansion in the nuclear programme, India today said benefits of atomic energy should not remain confined to a “privileged few” as it was vital to meet power requirements of developing countries.

“We need the concerted and collective efforts of the international community to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy as widely as possible,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a function where IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei was conferred the coveted Indira Gandhi Peace Prize.

He said India is now poised for a major expansion of its nuclear programme in which international cooperation will be an important component.

Noting that nuclear energy was vital to meeting the energy and development needs of developing countries like India, he said, “Its benefits should not remain confined to a privileged few.”

Dr. Singh cautioned that the growth of nuclear energy must go hand in hand with measures to reduce and eliminate risks of misuse.

He said efforts should be made to strengthen public trust and confidence in issues related to nuclear safety and security.

Presenting the Rs 25 lakh prize, President Pratibha Patil said “India’s long standing commitment to universal, non- discriminatory and comprehensive nuclear disarmament is well known. This commitment stands undiluted and undiminished.”

Lauding the efforts of Mr. ElBaradei and the IAEA in ensuring that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was used in the safest possible way, the Prime Minister said “India’s long standing relationship with the IAEA has been spotless.”

The role of IAEA was bound to expand in the years ahead not just in the traditional areas of nuclear energy and applications, but also in helping nations secure themselves against other nuclear dangers such as “those posed by terrorists gaining access to nuclear materials,” he said.

Dr. Singh also noted that successful conclusion of India’s civil nuclear initiative was in no small measure due to the “enlightened approach” of Mr. ElBaradei to the issues involved.

“A major milestone in this process was the conclusion of India’s safeguards agreement and its Additional Protocol with the IAEA.

“This gives India the possibility of additionally accessing a whole range of technologies and resources from the rest of the world. It also enables the global nuclear industry to benefit from India’s technical and industrial expertise,” he said.

Noting that the proliferation challenges threaten to undermine the security of countries, the President said the international community needed to forge a new global consensus on non-proliferation to address the challenges of non-state actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

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