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Circumstances not ripe for signing NPT: Manmohan

NEW DELHI, OCT. 7. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said today that the circumstances were "not ripe" for India to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) "right now". Dr. Singh, however, said that India was voluntarily fulfilling the commitments that went along with being a responsible nuclear power acting with "due restraint".

Answering a question at a joint press interaction with the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, Dr. Singh said: "We are a nuclear power, but we are a responsible nuclear power. We act with restraint. We have a no-first use doctrine in place.

'Our impeccable record'

"Also, we have an impeccable record of export controls so that any unauthorised use of sensitive nuclear materials can be effectively prevented." The Prime Minister was responding to a question on whether India might sign the NPT "one day".

India has consistently taken the position that the NPT is unequal and discriminatory and that it will not sign the treaty. The pressure on New Delhi to sign it mounted after the May 1998 nuclear tests, but there has been no change in India's position on the issue.

The Prime Minister made it clear that India was interested in working with like-minded countries in strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation system. "We are ourselves victims of the gaps that exist in the present non-proliferation arrangements."

India, Dr. Singh said, had to talk about these issues. Without referring to Pakistan or the A.Q. Khan network by name, he said that India had seen the clandestine export of nuclear materials in "our" region.

Support assured

Mr. Schroeder said that Germany would lend support to any effort that devised a mechanism to make it possible for India to have a closer relationship with the G-8 countries. He saw this support as part and parcel of the strategic partnership being forged between India and Germany.

"I assured the Chancellor that my Government stands committed to taking forward the [economic] reforms," Dr. Singh said. India wanted to create an environment that would be conducive to larger private investment — both domestic and foreign.

IT exports

Appreciating Germany's assistance in helping India's science and technology institutions, the Prime Minister hoped that hi-tech cooperation between the two countries would continue. India was one of the fastest growing economies and Germany could take advantage of the vast opportunities opening up in the country. Only one-tenth of India's global information technology exports went to Germany now and this was much below the potential.

U.N. reforms

Referring to the support extended by India and Germany to each other to enter the United Nations' Security Council as permanent members, Dr. Singh said this was proof of "our resolve to work together in our larger interests." India, like Germany, had the will and the capacity to take on the responsibility of a permanent member of the Security Council.

On the Security Council issue, the German Chancellor said he was gratified to note that India and Germany had "identical" interests.

Mr. Schroeder said the two countries shared common ground on several international issues. He had deep respect for the role played by the Government, and the Prime Minister personally, for the efforts at rapprochement with Pakistan.