US and India urge “meaningful dialogue” of all nuclear states

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have issued a joint statement calling for “a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons” with a view to reducing the salience of nuclear weapons globally. In the statement, issued at the end of President Obama’s visit to India, both leaders firmly stated their belief in a world free from nuclear weapons as well as expressing concerns over illegal smuggling and trafficking of nuclear material.

The joint statement covered a wide range of issues including concerns over biological terrorism, bilateral relations and technology sharing. The two leaders made their respective stances on nuclear weapons clear. India reaffirmed its voluntary ban on nuclear explosion testing and the U.S. restated its commitment to bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force at the earliest possible date.

The statement backed talks between all nuclear armed nations. It discussed the “need for a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence and for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines.” The willingness of the United States to discuss these issues with India suggests that it is prepared to engage with India in the same way that it would a member of the NPT. However the statement did not mention a timeframe or plans for a meeting involving India and the other states possessing nuclear weapons which are not NPT members (Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel which does not acknowledge holding a nuclear arsenal).

BASIC executive director Paul Ingram commented that “the dialogue between the United States and India is to be welcomed. However, the U.S. Government must avoid double standards in applying global non-proliferation norms, and actions that weaken their credibility.” The statement also welcomed the advancement of the controversial India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement.

U.S. officials said that the statement did not mark a shift in position but was in line with President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons as outlined in his Prague speech in April 2009. The president envisages that once the U.S. and Russia have taken steps towards reducing their nuclear arsenals, the other “official” nuclear states (UK, France and China), then all states possessing nuclear weapons, should join in further cuts.

The joint statement also welcomed the advancement of the controversial India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement.On the issue of Iran, Prime Minister Singh and President Obama committed themselves to using diplomacy to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. Critics have accused the United States of hypocrisy regarding its differing approaches to Iran and India over their respective nuclear programs.

“Joint Statement by President Obama and Prime Minister Singh of India,” Available on the website of the White House, Office of the Press Secretary, November 8, 2010

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