WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State John Kerry has praised India for what he called the “responsible stewardship” of its nuclear weapons and materials, while indicating that Washington and New Delhi have begun conversations about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, including its development and deployment of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons, in the backdrop of the Nuclear Security Summit which got underway on Thursday.

“India has a long record of being a leader, of being responsible, and it is particularly important right now at a time when we see some choices being made in the region that may accelerate possible arms construction, which we have serious questions about,” Kerry said as he met Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval at the State Department.

In making that statement, Kerry ignored the fact that India was the first country to introduce nuclear weapon in South Asia.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the US capital on Thursday, but ahead of his arrival, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his US counterparts and other senior American interlocutors have been discussing the progress in India’s ties with Pakistan, including its nuclear posture, according to media reports.

Kerry gave a broad indication that the Pakistani nuclear programme came up in talks with Doval when he referred cryptically to Washington having “serious questions” about “some choices” being made in the region that “may accelerate possible arms construction.”

“We’ve raised them with various partners in the region. So our hope is that this Nuclear Security Summit will contribute to everybody’s understanding about our global responsibilities and choices,” Kerry said, without directly naming Pakistan.

“India has a very important role to play with respect to responsible stewardship of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials. India has a long record of being a leader, of being responsible, and it is particularly important right now at a time when we see in the region some choices being made that may accelerate possible arms construction, which we have serious questions about,” Kerry, with Doval beside him, said.

The Pakistan delegation to the summit is being led by Tariq Fatemi, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs.

President Barack Obama opened the two-day summit at the Walter E Washington Convention Center with a trilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye as he sought to signal a unified front against the growing threat of North Korea.

In a related move the White House slammed Donald Trump’s suggestion that Japan and South Korea obtain nuclear weapons for self-defence as a “catastrophic” idea that would run counter to decades of US foreign policy.

“The entire premise of American foreign policy on nuclear weapons for the last 70 years is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional States,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said when asked by reporters to respond to Trump’s comments.

The sharp response came as President Barack Obama welcomed 50 world leaders to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit aimed at focusing global attention on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorist groups and reducing nuclear stockpiles around the world.

Meanwhile, talking to reporters ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Ayed Aizaz Chaudhry said Pakistan is following a policy of minimum nuclear deterrence to preserve strategic stability in South Asia, underscoring steps Islamabad has taken for nuclear security that has been duly recognized by the US and IAEA.

The secretary said that Pakistan has an active involvement in Summit and its input is fully reflected in all summit documents.

Aizaz told reporters Pakistan’s nuclear programme was fully secured and there has not been a single breach, whereas India has five reported cases of nuclear breaches.

“A total of 2734 nuclear theft cases were reported till December 2014 and Pakistan is not among them,” the secretary said and added that steps taken by Pakistan for the safety and security of its nuclear material and facilities have been praised and acknowledged by the United States as well as International Atomic Energy Agency.

Aizaz said that Pakistan plans to install a total 72 radiation portal monitors and many of them are already in place in exist and entry points, airports, border areas and around sensitive nuclear facilities.

Responding to a question, he stated that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was for self-defence and deterrence and is aimed to preserve strategic stability in the region.

He said that India’s nuclear programme was very ambitious and it continues to increase its nuclear stockpile, whereas Pakistan’s nuclear programme was based on minimum credible deterrence and any increase was in proportion to ‘threat level’.

He emphasised that Pakistan was not in arms race in the region and its nuclear programme was to prevent war and ensure strategic stability. Pakistani nation enjoys the full ownership of the country’s nuclear programme, he added.

Responding to a question about Prime Minister Sharif not attending the summit, the secretary said he had to stay back to monitor and guide the situation after the Lahore terror attack. However, he said all documents for the summit had already been prepared and includes Pakistan’s input.

A large number of Kashmiris staged a demo against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who arrived in Washington Thursday to participate in the Summit.

They demanded the exercise their right to self-determination and freedom.