US attuned to India's security concerns: White House

Earnest said the goal of the recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit was to eventually create a world without nuclear weapons.

PTI| Last Updated: Apr 05, 2016, 06:17 AM IST

Washington: The White House has insisted that it is "attuned" to the security concerns of India even as it reiterated US President Barack Obama's views on nuclear and missile developments in South Asia.

"The President's comments were motivated by the concern that we have about nuclear and missile developments in South Asia. In particular, we're concerned by the increased security challenges that accompany growing stockpiles, particularly tactical nuclear weapons that are designed for use on the battlefield," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday.

"These systems are a source of concern because they're susceptible to theft due to their size and load of employment. Essentially, by having these smaller weapons, the threshold for their use is lowered and the risk that a conventional conflict between India and Pakistan, could escalate to include the use of nuclear weapons," he said.

Earnest said the goal of the recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit was to eventually create a world without nuclear weapons.

"That is a longer-term goal. And one that the President has long prioritized. The President does believe that that is something that can be pursued, consistent with the relevant national security interests of countries around the world," he said.

"We are certainly going to be particularly concerned about and attuned to the national security concerns that are expressed by close partners of the US like India. And that said, we do believe that evolving in this direction is something that won't just enhance the national security United States, it will also enhance the national security of India," Earnest said.

The Obama Administration, he said, has regularly expressed concern about any sort of tactical nuclear weapon. "Our hope is that improvements in bilateral relations between India and Pakistan could greatly enhance prospects for lasting peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

It is important and the US has made this case to both countries, that there be a sustained and resilient dialogue between the two neighbours," he said.

The US has been encouraging all parties in the region to act with maximum restraint and work collaboratively toward reducing tensions in the region, he said.

"Obviously, the US benefits from the partnership that we have with both countries. We value it, and that's why we continue to make the case to our partners, both in India and Pakistan, that de-escalating the tension between these two countries is a priority," Earnest said.

"We certainly made clear the concerns that we have about the development of tactical nuclear weapons or so-called battlefield nuclear weapons," he said.

"I can tell you that these are issues that we have raised with both countries directly. I don't have a lot of information about individual conversations with countries to discuss from here. But I can tell you that this is a view that we have raised directly with both India and Pakistan," Earnest said.

On Friday, Obama had identified South Asia in particular India and Pakistan as one area where there is need to be progress in the area of nuclear security and reduction of nuclear arsenal.

The White House said it is aware about India's security concerns and its unique location in this part of the world.

"The US is committed to developing the US-India relationship and to the one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. And that includes of pursuing the strategic security dialogue that provides a dedicated venue to exchange ideas on India's intentions and defense needs and to discuss issues that they may have related to strategic stability," Earnest said.

"These are the kinds of conversations that we have with our Indian counterparts, and we are certainly aware of the unique region of the world in which India is located. We certainly appreciate the need that India has to take the necessary steps to defend themselves," he said.