A renewed commitment to non-proliferation is likely in return for nuclear secrets A new era of hi-tech co-operation between India and the United States is likely to be ushered in when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee meets President George W. Bush in New York today. The two leaders are expected to issue a statement underscoring Washington's new resolve to allow the transfer of technology in the sensitive areas of nuclear energy and space, along with permitting the sale of dual-use technology for commercial and military purposes. The decision has significant strategic ramifications for Asia. The question of Indian access to American technology has bedevilled relations between the two nations ever since India's first nuclear tests nearly three decades ago. But unlike during the Clinton era, when the two sides had protracted but inconclusive negotiations on the nuclear issue, the Bush administration has appeared much more willing to accept India's nuclearisation and missile-development programmes. India has responded in kind, and two years ago gave enthusiastic support to Mr Bush's proposal for a missile defence system girdling the globe, a strategic initiative primarily aimed against Russia and China, but also intended to contain 'rogue' nuclear states. Over lunch today, Mr Bush and Mr Vajpayee are expected to also explore the prospects of co-operation in missile defence. But C. Raja Mohan, strategic affairs editor of The Hindu, believes a section of the Bush administration is still opposed to missile defence co-operation with India since it could further destabilise South Asia by forcing Pakistan to expand its nuclear and missile capabilities. Islamabad already appears extremely nervous about the shift in US policy towards India's nuclear, missile and space programmes. Unable to criticise Washington openly, last week Pakistan alleged that India and Israel had begun secretly co-operating in the nuclear field, a charge vehemently denied by New Delhi. Islamabad's ultimate nightmare is a pre-emptive strike on its nuclear capabilities, either by Israel 'with India's direct assistance' or by the US, an attack aimed at preventing Pakistan's radical Muslims getting hold of nuclear weapons. Strategic analysts also see the shift in American policy in the context of Washington's unstated aim of containing China's growing military might. As a result, there will be more than usual interest in Beijing and Islamabad in today's Bush-Vajpayee statement. Mr Mohan said that both Pakistan and China were nervous about Indo-US co-operation in such a sensitive area and were certain to raise objections. But even as it publicly signals a shift in its policy, the US is expected to demand a stronger commitment from India towards non-proliferation. As a result, it is likely to demand stricter controls on the export of nuclear and missile technology, firm assurances that dual-use technology would not be diverted for military purposes and more intensive monitoring of India's civil nuclear energy programme. Meanwhile, India's new Nuclear Command Authority, meeting for the first time earlier this month, gave the go-ahead for the construction of two nuclear attack-proof bunkers for Mr Vajpayee and his top aides. One will be right below his office and the second 400km from New Delhi.