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US House approves N-deal with India
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The House of Representatives on Wednesday night overwhelmingly approved the US-India civilian nuclear deal handing the Bush administration a significant victory on a key foreign policy issue.

Lawmakers rejected amendments that the Indian government and Bush administration had said would imperil the delicately balanced agreement.

The House voted 359-68 in favour of the Bill. The deal would allow India, which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to buy US nuclear reactors and fuel.

"Historians will regard what we do today as a tidal shift in relations between India and the United States," Congressman Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and co-author of the House Bill, told his colleagues before the vote. "This will be known as the day when Congress signaled definitively the end of the Cold War paradigm governing interactions between Delhi and Washington."

The Senate must also approve the Bill but a vote is not expected until September. The House and the Senate would vote again after US-India negotiations on the technical details of the agreement are completed.

India must also complete discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group must allow nuclear transfers to India.

The Bill approved by the House requires the President to make several determinations to Congress. Among these, the President must determine:

  • That India has concluded a credible plan to separate civilian and military nuclear facilities;
  • That India has concluded a safeguards agreement with the IAEA that will apply safeguards in perpetuity to India's civil nuclear facilities, materials and programmes;
  • That India is harmonising its export control laws and regulations to match those of the Nuclear Suppliers Group; and
  • That India is actively supporting US efforts to conclude a fissile material cut off treaty.

The legislation also requires that the President makes detailed annual reports on US non-proliferation policy with respect to South Asia and the implementation of the US-India agreement.

The House rejected three amendments that would have forced India to halt fissile material production as a condition of the nuclear deal; that would forbid India from diverting its domestically produced uranium for weapons use; and an effort to defer action until India did more to back US efforts to contain Iran. An amendment, which sought to introduce language clearly stating that the deal would be strictly for civilian purposes, was approved.

Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, "This is not a proposal we would offer to just any nation. It is a venture we would enter into only with our most trusted and proven democratic allies,"

Congressman Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, who co-authored the Bill with Mr Lantos, said it "represents a judicious balancing of competing priorities."

"It will enable India to make energy cheaper, cleaner and more accessible. It would create more customers for US firms and, in the end, both countries will benefit," the Illinois Republican said.

A critic of the deal, Congressman Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, called the plan a "historic failure" that "pours nuclear fuel on the fire of an India-Pakistan nuclear arms race."

Congressman Gary Ackerman, Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, noted India lives in a "difficult neighborhood," and "if India didn't exist in that neighborhood, we would have to invent them."

"India has been a responsible nuclear power and deserves to be treated that way," he added.

Congressman Joseph Crowley, New York Democrat, said, "The success of this deal now lies in the hands of President Bush and the Indian government and both understand the high stakes of this historic opportunity for both nations," Mr Crowley said.

"This legislation creates a two-step process and by passing the United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act today we have taken that critical first step," he added.

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Goalposts in nuclear accord intact: PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 27
Asserting that the goalposts will be there and not shifted, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Rajya Sabha today that if the end product of the American legislation was inconsistent with the July 18, 2005, agreement on the Indo-US nuclear deal then that would be determining factor on what India would do.

Emphasising that he cannot influence the US legislative process, Dr Manmohan Singh said “it is for Washington to come to a conclusion while we perform our part of the bargain”.

Making these observations during question hour, the Prime Minister explained that the US legislative process on the nuclear deal with India was on and any apprehension right now was baseless.

Assuring the Upper House that whatever is taking place on the nuclear deal will be within the parameters of the July 18, 2005 agreement, Dr Manmohan Singh said if it was not in tandem with the country’s needs then it would be detrimental.

Counselling for patience and to await the legislative process to be completed in the US, the Prime Minister said “the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved the nuclear deal and there is a Senate Bill. When there are differences between the two Bills, there will a conference”.

The Prime Minister was responding to supplementaries to a question about the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement comes in the wake of apprehensions expressed by the Opposition and the Congress-led UPA’s Left allies that the US was shifting the goalpost and the legislation would harm India’s interests. He reiterated that India would not compromise on the parameters agreed to in the July 18 agreement signed in Washington last year. He acknowledged that there were “elements of concern to us” and adequate representation had been made to the US Government.

The Prime Minister said he had spoken about these concerns to US President George W. Bush in St Petersburg recently. Mr Bush had assured that the “The US administration will do all it can to see that the parameters — the goalpost of July 18, 2005 — are not tampered with”.

The Prime Minister affirmed that he would take Parliament into confidence before entering into the agreement.

He did not agree with former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha’s contention that the goal post has been shifted and might be taken out of the field. “The goal post is and will be there”, he asserted.

The NDA and Samajwadi Party members staged a walkout on the ground that the nuclear deal with the US was not satisfactory.

Member of the SP Amar Singh, backed by the NDA, demanded a resolution on the deal. Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat said he could not force the government. Earlier, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said India was required to enter into a safeguard agreement for its civilian nuclear facilities with IAEA only and the agreement would be India specific.

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India in wait and watch mode over N-deal
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 27
India today chose to be in a wait-and watch mode and held back its reaction to the historic passage of a Bill regarding Indo-US civilian nuclear deal in the 435-member House of Representatives by a massive margin (359 votes for and 68 against).

A key Government of India official said the passage of the Bill in the House went on the expected lines but the real test lay ahead when the 100-member Senate votes for it, possibly not before September. After this the scene will shift to the plenary meeting of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group in October, as without the nod of this body the implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal would not be possible.

The Ministry of External Affairs today came out with a restrained and cautious reaction. It maintained that the passage of the Bill authorising the US Administration to engage in full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India demonstrated the broad political consensus in the USA in the promotion of Indo-US relations in all fields.

“We must, nevertheless, await the finalised text of the legislation which will emerge after a Senate vote and the reconciliation of the two Bills before we are able to comment on its contents. As has already been stated, there are concerns that we have conveyed to the USA to ensure that the final legislation must not deviate from the parameters of the Indo-US joint statement of July 18, 2005, and the Separation Plan,” the MEA spokesman said in response to a question.

In another development today, the USA took care to address India’s political compulsions and diplomatic sensitivities with regard to the nuclear deal. Mr Geoff Pyatt, Charge d’ Affaires of the US Embassy here, said: “I will challenge anybody to find a single element (in the Bill passed by the US House yesterday) that is not there in the July 18, 2005, US-India joint statement.”

The American diplomat’s remark came in response to this correspondent’s query on how Washington took to the Indian Opposition parties, which are pitching for a resolution in Parliament on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Mr Pyatt allayed fears that the deal would sound the death knell of India’s long-term strategic programme and made three more important observations in this regard as follows:

(i) The US legislation imposes no constraint on India with regard to production of fissile material.

(ii) There is no obligation on part of India to report to the US Congress about its strategic nuclear activities.

(iii) India is not a target of the US non-proliferation efforts. On the contrary, Washington looks upon India as a partner.

He expressed hope that by the time the NSG plenary session is held in October, the US Congress would have come up with the required legislation which would send a positive signal to the NSG. He said the recent G-8 summit in St Petersburg had already sent one such signal by endorsing the Indo-US nuclear deal and the India, Brazil, South Africa summit in September was expected to be another landmark in this direction.

He said the USA did not look upon the deal as a light switch which Washington could turn on or off at its will, as some critics had suggested. 

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Left may not side with NDA on N-deal
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 27
Left parties are veering around the idea of not pressing on a resolution on the Indo-US nuclear deal to avoid an embarrassment being seen as siding with Opposition BJP-led NDA. The alliance has announced to bring a resolution in Parliament opposing the deal in the present form, terming it against the national interest.

Though the Left parties also had strong reservation about the nuke deal as they also have criticised the government for alleged surrender of national interest, the Opposition’s announcement to bring in a resolution had put them in a bind.

General Secretary of the CPM Prakash Karat, without giving clear assurance on the issue of resolution, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s suo motu statement on the deal was “not acceptable” to them, and wanted that clear “parameters” needed to be laid down by Parliament to make the government bound by them.

However, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta came out with a clearer statement against the resolution saying, “we are not in favour of the BJP-sponsored resolution. It would be politically wrong for us to join with the BJP on this issue.”

When contacted for his reaction on the issue, Mr Karat said, “we never specifically pressed for a resolution. We only wanted Parliament set the parameters. In what form, it is being discussed.”

The Prime Minister, while responding to the issue Lok Sabha yesterday, had assured the nation that there would be “no compromise” on national interest and he was trying to ensure “utmost transparency” and “overall accountability” in the deal with the US.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is negotiating with the Left on the issue in order to soften their stand, had stated that any resolution by the Left parties would tantamount to a no-confidence motion and might pose a threat to stability of UPA government, which is being supported by the Communists from outside.

Serious differences had reportedly arisen between the Congress and the Left parties on the issue at a joint meeting yesterday with the former taking tough stand and reminding the Left leaders that any harden position by them would pose a threat to the UPA alliance itself.

 



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