WASHINGTON, March 10: The Bush administration is in favour of extending nuclear threat reduction measures between the United States and Russia to Pakistan and India.

This is claimed by Senator Richard Lugar, a ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading non-proliferation advocate in Congress, who says the administration has strongly endorsed his proposal to extend the Nunn-Lugar programme that envisages US-Russia cooperative threat reduction measures aimed at counter-proliferation to South Asia.

Senator Lugar has made the claim in an interview with India Abroad after delivering a speech on “NATO after 9/11: Crisis or Opportunity,” to members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mr Lugar told the journal he would shortly introduce legislation in this regard and hoped that New Delhi and Islamabad would go along and work with Washington on a counter-proliferation programme that would include safe storage, accountability and planned destruction of dangerous weapons and materials that could get into the hands of terrorist groups.

The senator’s statement has coincided with reports of a secret review submitted to the administration that suggests where US nuclear weapons should be targetted, and while the immediate threat is said to be posed by Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, North Korea and China, Russia is also mentioned in the review.

In his interview, Mr Lugar said the administration was not only enthusiastic about his proposal, but had agreed to aggressively promote it in the subcontinent. Since nuclear-armed India and Pakistan had armies again confronting each other, Mr Lugar said that the two countries would necessarily be the most immediate partners for cooperation with the US as it attempted to globalize the Nunn-Lugar-style cooperative threat reduction programmes.

The Nunn-Lugar programme, named in part for former Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, who chaired the Armed Services Committee, has led to the dismantling of nearly 6,000 nuclear warheads and secured the erstwhile Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Lugar said that unlike the former Soviet Union that had been deactivating and dismantling some of its weapons of mass destruction under the Nunn-Lugar programme,

India and Pakistan could hold on to the weapons that they had but ensure that they were in safe storage and accounted for.

In this context, according to India Abroad, the senator referred to recent reports that “Pakistan had some dangers in dispersing its weapons in recent times and in six different locations and there were suggestions that China might be called in to help offer security so that they would not be spirited off by a terrorist group.”

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