Obama stands by concerns over N-arsenal in South Asia: White House

Washington: A day after India criticised Barack Obama for asking it to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the White House said the President stands by his concerns over 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.

“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 reiterated Obama’s concerns about nuclear and missile developments in South Asia.

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

“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 of 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.

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

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