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US Senator defends Indo-US civilian nuke cooperation
Aziz Haniffa in Washington | November 10, 2005 11:15 IST
Last Updated: November 10, 2005 12:16 IST
United States Senator John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who is the founder and co-chair with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, of the Friends of India Caucus in the US Senate has begun a lobbying effort to garner support among his colleagues for the US-India civilian nuclear agreement that has virtually hit a brick wall in Congress.
Cornyn, took to the Senate floor Wednesday to make an impassioned plea that the Senate seriously consider this agreement and work toward making the necessary changes in the current legislation to envisage the implementation of this deal, arguing that it is important for national security and US-India relations.
"This is an important matter that does relate directly to our national security and that has to do with the remarkable progress that US-India relations have made over the last several years and the path that lays ahead," he said.
Recalling the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington in July,which he described as "a historic state visit," Cornyn said, "this event marked a critical milestone in our improving relationship, but the Congress needs to help ensure that this relationship reaches its full potential."
"President Bush has made it a fundamental foreign policy objective to move US-India relations to a new level and plans to visit India in the near future," he added.
Cornyn, a close confidante of the President, pointing out that India is the world's largest democracy, "and our two nations share many common values and common beliefs,"asserted that consequently, "it is only appropriate, then, that the United States and India become true strategic partners as we move into the 21st century."
"Fortunately, the days of the Cold War when the United States and India were at odds are long past, and today, the United States and India share a common vision for the future as we battle terrorism together and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS, and a host of other challenges that face our world."
Heaping kudos on the Indian American community, Cornyn, who was urged to visit India and immediately upon his return convene the Senate India Caucus by one of his most active constituents in Dallas, Ashok Mago, said, "The United States is fortunate to have many Indian Americans who have helped bring our two nations closer together," and noted that "there are 2 million people of Indian origin in the United States, approximately, many of whom are now US citizens. There are about 200,000 Indian Americans in my state of Texas alone, and nearly 80,000 Indian students are studying in our nation's colleges and universities."
"Their contributions to our nation and our relationship have been remarkably positive," he emphasised.
Then moving on to explain the importance of Congressional approval of the implementation of the nuclear deal between Washington and New Delhi, Cornyn said it "…will help India with its energy needs and help bring India into the mainstream of international nuclear nonproliferation efforts, both of which are worthwhile goals."
While acknowledging, "It is true that the agreement is a significant departure from previous US policy," Cornyn argued, "Still it represents a positive step as we grow in our strategic relationship with the nation of India. For more than 30 years, the United States and India have disagreed over India's decision not to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and, as such, the United States has no cooperation with India on the issue of civilian nuclear power."
"In short," he said, "We have been at a stalemate, which has neither served our nonproliferation goals nor helped India's need for energy resources. Fortunately, a civil nuclear cooperation agreement will allow us to move forward in a way that serves both the interests of the United States and the interests of India."
Taking on the criticism by his own Republican colleagues like Senators Richard Lugar of Indiana - the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee - and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, as to why India should be given a pass when it has not signed the NPT and that such an exception would undermine Washington's own nonproliferation efforts, Cornyn said this accord in fact, would "Enhance our nonproliferation efforts."
Cornyn who in recent days has been meeting with Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen and representatives of the two leading lobbying firms in Washington - Barbour Griffith and Rogers and Venable LLC - retained by New Delhi at a total cost of nearly $ 1.3 million annually to the Indian taxpayer, said, India has decided, "For their own national security reasons, that they will not become a party to the treaty, and no amount of international pressure, persuasion, or cajoling will convince them to do otherwise. This is a reality which we face, but the status quo for another 30 years is not acceptable either."
Thus, he said, "Recognising this reality, we must ask ourselves what we can do to promote nonproliferation efforts with India and bring them within the international nonproliferation regime," and echoing the Bush Administration's spiel, declared, "The civil nuclear cooperation agreement provides the answer."
"Despite not signing the NPT, India has an excellent nonproliferation record. They understand the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and that is why India agreed to adhere to key international nonproliferation efforts on top of their own stringent export control regime."
Cornyn said, "This is a significant leap forward, which has been welcomed by the International Atomic Energy Agency Director, Mohamed El Baradei, who understands that India will not come to the NPT through the normal route."
"This agreement brings India's growing civilian nuclear capabilities within international export control regimes. India will now assume the same nonproliferation responsibilities that other nations have with civil nuclear energy. Specifically, India has agreed to identify and separate civilian and military nuclear facilities and programs and file with the International Atomic Energy Association a declaration with regard to its civilian facilities."
Cornyn also informed his colleagues that India has also, "Agreed to place voluntarily its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and it has agreed to sign and adhere to an additional protocol with respect to civilian nuclear facilities. And it has agreed to continue its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing."
He pointed out that India has agreed to work with the US "…for the conclusion of a multilateral fissile material cutoff treaty and it has agreed to refrain from the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them and support efforts to limit their spread."
"Finally, India has agreed to secure nuclear materials and technology through comprehensive export control legislation and adherence to the Missile Technology Control Regime and Nuclear Suppliers Group," he added.
Cornyn reiterated, "Each of these commitments represents a positive step forward, and India, which is no stranger to international terrorism itself, is motivated by its own security needs to fight proliferation of nuclear weapons."
He said, "The same is true of the United States, and, both nations, as well, are dependent on oil imports to satisfy the needs of their economies and to create jobs for their people."
"Both nations, therefore," he said, "see in civilian nuclear energy cooperation an opportunity to satisfy these growing energy needs without environmental hazards of relying solely on fossil fuels. In short, this agreement is important to our growing international strategic partnership and for India's domestic energy needs."
Cornyn noted, "Although the administration's negotiations with the Indians are ongoing regarding the implementation of these commitments, I am confident that we are on the right track."