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The United States said Thursday that India could emulate other major nuclear powers by not testing atomic weapons, amid debate over the fate of a bilateral nuclear deal if New Delhi conducted a test.

"We are not testing and I don't think you see advanced nuclear countries around the world testing. And certainly, we don't encourage other states to do that," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"All of that understood, you know, India is a sovereign country," he told reporters when asked to comment on raging debate in India over whether it enjoyed the right to test nuclear weapons under the landmark US-India civilian nuclear energy deal.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament this week that the deal would not curb India's right to test nuclear weapons, saying New Delhi retained the "sovereign right to test and would do so if it is necessary in the national interest."

But the United States responded by saying that the nuclear deal's operating agreement contained provisions for "full termination" of all nuclear cooperation with India, as well as requiring the return of any items, including reprocessed fuel, covered in the pact, if India tested atomic weapons.

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