Warning the world of the dangers of 'clandestine proliferation networks,' a reference to Pakistan's A.Q. Khan network, India Tuesday unveiled a pioneering initiative to set a global centre for nuclear energy partnership and called for 'zero tolerance' for traffickers in nuclear materials.
'I am happy to announce on this occasion that we have decided to set up a Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership in India,' Manmohan Singh told 46 world leaders gathered at the Nuclear Security Summit on a drizzly cold morning in Washington DC.
The announcement elicited much cheer from world leaders, with US President Barack Obama promptly hailing India's initiative for nuclear safety.
'We welcome the announcement of the setting up of the Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership by India,' Obama said in a statement. 'This will be one more tool to establish best practices,' he added.
The Centre, fleshed out by India's department of atomic energy, will consist of four schools dealing with Advanced Nuclear Energy System Studies, Nuclear Security, Radiation Safety, and the Application of Radioisotopes and Radiation Technology in the areas of healthcare, agriculture and food.
It will conduct research and development of design systems that are intrinsically safe, secure, proliferation resistant and sustainable.
'We would welcome participation in this venture by your countries, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the world to make this Centre's work a success,' said Manmohan Singh.
Highlighting India's impeccable record as a responsible nuclear power and a slew of steps taken by New Delhi to ensure nuclear non-proliferation, Manmohan Singh exhorted the world to jointly combat the perils of nuclear terrorism.
'As a responsible nuclear power, India has not and will not be the source of proliferation of sensitive technologies,' he said.
'The world community should join hands to eliminate the risk of sensitive and valuable materials and technologies falling into hands of terrorists and illicit traffickers,' he said.
'There should be zero tolerance for individuals and groups which engage in illegal trafficking in nuclear items,' Manmohan Singh stressed.
Without naming Pakistan's A.Q. Khan operation, which proliferated sensitive nuclear technology to renegade states like North Korea, Iran and Libya, Manmohan Singh said: 'Clandestine proliferation networks have flourished and led to insecurity for all, including and especially for India.'
He asked the world leaders to learn from past mistakes and to institute effective measures to prevent their recurrence.
'The danger of nuclear explosives or fissile material and technical know-how falling into the hands of non-state actors continues to haunt our world,' he said.
'India is deeply concerned about the danger it faces, as do other states, from this threat,' he said.
Although he did not name Pakistan, the reference was obvious to world leaders who had gathered for the summit who, too, have voiced apprehensions about the dangers of Pakistan-origin proliferation.
Unfazed, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, however, assured the world that his country's nuclear arsenals and materials are safe and pitched for an India-like civil nuclear deal with the US.
Welcoming the recent accord between the US and Russia to cut nuclear arsenals, Manmohan Singh asked the world's nuclear powers to make 'deeper cuts' in their atomic weapons and pitched for 'universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament.'
'Global non-proliferation, to be successful, should be universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory and linked to the goal of complete nuclear disarmament,' he said.
'Today, I once again reiterate India's call to the world community to work towards the realisation of this vision,' he said while alluding to the vision of universal disarmament enunciated by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the 1988 action plan by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to rid the world of nuclear weapons.