M A I N   N E W S

Bush & Co pin hopes on PM’s visit
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Having shepherded the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement all the way up to Capitol Hill, President George W. Bush’s administration now hopes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s September 25 visit to Washington will provide the momentum to push the deal over the finish line.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the administration believed there was “significant support” in Congress to get the deal wrapped up in the near future.

“I hope that they would be able to get it done next week,” Perino said, adding, “And one of the reasons Prime Minister Singh will come to the White House is to help push that over the line so that we can get it done.”

Singh, who will be attending the United Nations General Assembly session in New York, will make a lighting trip to Washington on September 25 for what is being described as a working dinner with Bush at the White House. U.S. and Indian officials privately hope the two leaders will be able to raise a toast to a completed civilian nuclear deal.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the first hearing in the final lap of the deal on Thursday. The acting chairman of the committee, Sen. Christopher Dodd, standing in for Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., urged colleagues to approve the deal “this month... rather than waiting until next year.”

U.S. law requires that the deal must lie in Congress for 30 days of continuous session before it can be taken up for an up or down vote. With the session due to end on Sept. 26, this requirement cannot be fulfilled in the present Congress. The most likely option before lawmakers to push the deal through without amendments is to append it to an unrelated piece of legislation, most likely an appropriations related measure. Dodd has suggested such a continuing resolution.”

“I don’t see any likelihood a freestanding proposal would have any opportunity for consideration,” Dodd told reporters after the hearing on Thursday. He conceded there were some in Congress who’ve expressed “some reservations” that the Bush Administration may resort to such a “continuing resolution” and bypass the Senate and House committees altogether. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns assured Dodd: “Our preference is certainly to work with the committee and work with the Congress towards an approval that all of us support.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on the deal. A critic in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, took potshots at the Senate testimony of Burns and acting under secretary of state for arms control and international security, James Rood.

Massachusetts Congressman Edward J. Markey accused the state department officials of providing misleading Senate testimony on the deal.

“President Bush’s state department continued its three-year campaign to undermine the nuclear non-proliferation treaty by ignoring glaring nonproliferation problems with the U.S.-India nuclear deal,” he said.

“The state department claimed that if India tests a nuclear weapon, the deal would be terminated, but just last week the U.S. Ambassador to India said that India ‘will always have the sovereign right to conduct a test.’

The state department also claimed today that the deal maintains our right to ‘seek the return of transferred [nuclear] materials and technology,’ but unlike other nuclear cooperation agreements, this agreement does not explicitly state a U.S. right of return should India test again,” Markey said, adding, “This double-speak is dangerous and misleading and must end.”



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