NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves for Washington on Saturday to attend the first ever Nuclear Security Summit at which all major countries with nuclear assets, barring Iran

and North Korea (and Cuba and Venezuela), have been invited. To counter that snub Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has called a nuclear non-proliferation meeting of its own in Tehran on April 16 and 17 to which India has also been invited.

By getting India’s Ambassador to Iran, Sanjay Singh, to attend the Tehran meeting as its representative India is sending a clear message that it does not approve of Iran’s clandestine nuclear enrichment programme. That Tehran will use the forum to castigate the United States’ dealings with non-NPT signatories, among them India, with which the US signed a seminal civil nuclear cooperation deal, has not gone down well with New Delhi, sources said.

While at pains to stress that India views Iran as “a responsible member of the international community,” the Indian government is clear that nuclear terrorism is “a global challenge” and it would go with the international community’s consensus, likely to be reflected in the outcome of the Washington summit. India will not raise any country-specific concerns at the summit, but will leave little scope for doubt that it views Pakistan’s non-proliferation efforts as “more than suspect, given the (disgraced scientist) AQ Khan nuclear ‘Walmart’” a senior official said.

India has been working closely on the preliminaries of the Nuclear Security summit since last year, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said, and has been part of an international effort to pilot an anti-terrorism pact at the United Nations since 2002. Illicit trafficking in nuclear materials and details of what countries have done to secure their assets will feature prominently in the talks, which will be, like the G-20, held in an interactive format.

“There is a national responsibility to secure nuclear instruments,” Rao said. “All responsible members of the international community have a stake in ensuring nuclear

security.”

A major initiative by US President Barack Obama, the summit on April 12 and 13 will seek to find a consensus on how to secure nuclear assets worldwide and ensure fissile material like bombs do not fall into the hands of terrorists.

In his recently announced nuclear policy review, Obama said, “for the first time, preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism is now at the top of America’s nuclear agenda.”

“Our nuclear security summit next week will be an opportunity for 47 nations to commit to specific steps to pursue the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years,” Obama said as he declared that the US “will not use or threaten to use

nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. Those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure,” Obama said.