M A I N   N E W S

‘Waiver must be consistent with US Act’
Ashish Kumar Sen Writes from Washington

If the Bush administration wants to get the US-India civilian nuclear agreement wrapped up before the end of the year it must assure Congress that a recent India-specific waiver given by the Nuclear Suppliers Group is consistent with the US Act that enables nuclear cooperation with India, according to a senior lawmaker.

California Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the “burden of proof” now lies on President George W. Bush. “If the administration wants to seek special procedures to speed congressional consideration, it will have to show how the NSG decision is consistent with the Hyde Act as secretary [Condoleezza] Rice promised, including which technologies can be sent to India and what impact a nuclear test by India will have,” he said, adding, “The burden of proof is on the Bush administration so that Congress can be assured that what we’re being asked to approve conforms with US law.”

Berman noted that he supported the deal with India but was opposed to policies that would lead to a nuclear arms race or undermine the proliferation standards. “Before we vote, Congress needs to study the NSG decision, along with any agreements that were made behind the scenes to bring it about,” he said.

In an appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee on February 13, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice assured Berman that any NSG decision “will have to be completely consistent with the obligations of the Hyde Act.”

The Hyde Act and the Atomic Energy Act require that after the Bush administration submits the US-India civilian nuclear cooperation agreement to Congress, 30 days of continuous Congressional session must elapse before a resolution of approval can be introduced. Only by first passing new legislation can Congress set aside the 30-day requirement.

Berman last week released a letter from the State Department noting that the US has the right to terminate nuclear commerce with India in the event of a nuclear test by New Delhi.

The January 16 correspondence was sent to Congressman Tom Lantos, Berman’s predecessor on the House committee, in response to questions from lawmakers.

The contents of the letter, specifically the fact that the US had retained the right to scrap the deal in the event of a test, created a flap in New Delhi.



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