M A I N   N E W S

N-deal: Be done with it fast: Rice
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

As US lawmakers prepared to conduct a hearing on the US-India civilian nuclear agreement in what is the final step for the deal, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was busy urging lawmakers to swiftly approve it.

Rice told a group of visiting Indian members of Parliament on Wednesday evening that she hopes the deal will be wrapped up by the time Congress goes out of session on September 26. Parliamentary affairs minister Vyalar Ravi headed the group of MPs. Rice reportedly told Ravi she was scheduled to meet lawmakers on Capitol Hill following her meeting with the MPs.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will convene a hearing on the deal later on Thursday afternoon. Democratic Sen Christopher Dodd, who is standing in for the panel’s chairman Sen. Joseph R. Biden, will chair the hearing. A supporter of the deal, Biden, the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential nominee, is away on the campaign trail.

Ahead of the hearing, the nonproliferation lobby complained about the “rushed” session and the prepared testimony of witnesses scheduled to speak before the panel. Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association said, “The prepared testimony of the two major witnesses — the state department's William Burns and John Rood — sidesteps all of the major issues and reiterates the Orwellian claim that the deal provides important nonproliferation benefits.”

Meanwhile, the US–India Business Council, the largest trade group in Washington comprised of more than 300 US companies with major investments in India, has pulled out all stops in support of the deal. “With the IAEA approving a safeguards agreement for India, and with the NSG endorsement last weekend opening India’s civil nuclear trade with the world, our member-companies strongly feel that all nuclear nonproliferation issues have now effectively been addressed,” said Ron Somers, President of USIBC.

“It is important that our American companies have the opportunity to participate in India’s nuclear build-out, valued at more than $100 billion, with the potential of creating hundreds of thousands of high-end American jobs, providing a boost to a flagging US economy.”



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