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123: US senate considers two amendments
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The US Senate on Wednesday debated on the US-India civilian nuclear agreement and considered two amendments that sought to ensure US nuclear exports did not help boost India’s nuclear weapons programme or contribute to a future nuclear test. 
Calling the amendments “duplicative,” Sen. Richard Lugar, a top Republican from Indiana, said that the US law was clear that in the event of a future nuclear test by India, the 123 Agreement that governs nuclear cooperation between the US and India, will be “over.” Lugar explained: “This means the President could terminate all nuclear cooperation with India and demand the return of all nuclear material exported to India. New Delhi has more to gain from peaceful nuclear cooperation… than in testing.” 

Acknowledging the accuracy of a claim by Indian leaders that New Delhi retained the right to test a nuclear weapon, Lugar said: “They are a sovereign nation. But India has been warned repeatedly that the consequences of another test will be dire…. If India tests, the deal will be off.” 

Contentious non-binding language in the Bill states that the US will also work with other Nuclear Suppliers Group members to cease nuclear cooperation with India should the US cut off its supply in the event of a test.

Ironically, the Democrat-controlled Congress handed to President George W. Bush, a Republican, a major foreign policy success in a presidency littered with failure.

The Senate took up House resolution (H.R.) 7081, the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act, for debate at 10.15 a.m. 

Two senators introduced amendments that were intended to ensure US nuclear exports did not help boost India's nuclear weapons programme.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the leadership on Capitol Hill and the Bush Administration had worked “long and hard for months” on the initiative. 

The legislation was passed in the House of Representatives on Saturday on a 298-117 vote. 

The debate came even as lawmakers, working in an extended session of Congress, had their hands full with a $700 billion bailout package to rescue the US financial system.

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan’s amendment sought to clarify the US policy in the event of a nuclear test by India. It stated that “notwithstanding any other provision of law, the US may not export, transfer or re-transfer any nuclear technology, material, equipment or facility under the agreement if the Government of India detonates a nuclear explosive device after the date of the enactment of this Act.” 

“We are saying to India it is OK if you prove additional nuclear weapons… I think that is almost unbelievable India,” Dorgan told his colleagues in the Senate. Acknowledging India as an important ally, Dorgan said those who had agreed to the deal with this “ambiguity” on testing were making “a grievous mistake.” 

“You think this agreement … has no impact on Pakistan? … What message does it send to others who want to join the nuclear club,” he asked. 

This administration is, in my judgement, making a very serious mistake,” Dorgan said, adding he didn’t understand why the deal was being rushed through in a truncated session. 

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, offered the other amendment that sought a reporting requirement in the event of a test by India.

The Bingaman amendment says that if India detonates a nuclear weapon after the date of the enactment of the deal, the US President has to certify to Congress that no American technology, material, equipment or facility supplied to India under the agreement contributed to New Delhi’s test.

Dorgan and Bingaman combined their amendments in order to have a single vote. Corporate America had invested a tremendous amount in pushing the deal to the finish line.



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