WASHINGTON: The Obama administration was working with Congress for passing a law that would recognise India as a major partner of equal status, a senior Pentagon official said on Monday.

Also on Monday, India objected to US President Barack Obama’s statement during a nuclear summit in Washington last week, urging both India and Pakistan to stop moving in the wrong direction.

Indian officials said that Mr Obama’s “lack of understanding” caused him to club India’s nuclear programme with Pakistan’s.

Duncan M. Lang, who heads the India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC) in the Pentagon, told The Hindu newspaper in Washington that the administration was working with lawmakers to ensure the adoption of the US-India Defence Technology and Partnership Act.

The proposed legislation, moved in the US Congress last month, would “institutionalise” the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative framework (DTTI) and an India-specific cell in the Pentagon, Mr Lang said.

The resolution would formalise India’s status as a major partner of equal status for all congressional notifications, the US official added.

Mr Lang said the proposed legislation enjoyed a strong bipartisan support and he believed it would soon be adopted.

The cell was the initiative of US Defence Secretary Ash Carter who was also the key architect of the DTTI, launched in 2012 to enable co-production of high technology platforms.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Indian Ministry for External Affairs, who also attended last week’s nuclear summit in Washington, said New Delhi did not want its nuclear programme to be clubbed with Pakistan’s.

He claimed that India had a no-first use nuclear weapons policy and had never initiated military action against any neighbour.

“Since the context was the Nuclear Security Summit, the President’s own remark that ‘expanding nuclear arsenals in some countries, with more small tactical nuclear weapons which could be at greater risk of theft’ sums up the focus of global concern,” Mr Swarup said.

While responding to a question on the US and Russia cutting their nuclear arsenals, President Obama said in his post-summit news conference that both India and Pakistan needed to be more careful.

He said that while making military doctrines Pakistan and India should ensure that they were not continually “moving in the wrong direction”.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2016

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