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I consider myself pro-India: US Congressman
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | June 22, 2006 10:56 IST
California Democrat and Congressman Howard Berman, who introduced an amendment on the eve of the House Foreign Relations Committee's mark-up poking holes in the Bush administration's proposal to consummate the US-India nuclear deal, has denied that his move was a strategic ploy to deny President Bush a major foreign policy victory before the Congressional elections in November.
"The only concern that motivates me is the concern about the extent to which this agreement -- that is being talked about from the initial announcement and subsequent reports -- undermines our nonproliferation goals," Berman told rediff.com.
He reiterated as he had done during the press briefing on Tuesday unveiling his legislation, "I consider myself pro-India. I accept that India has nuclear weapons and we have to be realistic about it and I am not averse to nuclear energy cooperation -- the eight kind of an agreement."
"There is nothing in what I am doing that seeks any kind of partisan advantage or is aimed against India," Berman asserted, arguing that if this were a Democratic president proposing the same agreement, he would be making the exact same points.
He said, "The problem that we are in now is because the administration did rush here --they sort of imposed themselves on a time-cert to get this done and as a result conceded some points that did not need to be conceded."
Berman maintained that this was not a Democratic or Republican issue, and pointed out that there were those supportive and opposed to the deal on both sides of the aisle. He said the members of the committee were not looking at it as Democrats and Republican.
"Even within our own Democratic membership on the International Relations Committee, we have many different views. There is no party position as such," he said, adding, "Some have endorsed the deal enthusiastically and some Republicans have expressed some real reservations about the deal. I know in almost everything else we are doing around this place at this time, the partisan consideration tends to dominate. But on this one, I do not think that was the case."
Berman said, "The political support I feel I have is the force of the arguments from almost every nonproliferation expert that I have worked with over the years -- people inside the Reagan and Bush administrations, people inside the Clinton administration, people who were once in this Bush administration and people in the different think tanks and universities for whom nonproliferation has been a priority."
"And, the very large consensus -- the strong consensus -- of those people who I have worked with on issues having nothing to do with India is that this framework agreement is woefully lacking in some very important provisions to ensure that this does not undermine nonproliferation. So that is where I feel my strongest support comes from --that people who really know this area have real reservations about it," he added.
Berman acknowledged that there were definitely members who had concerns. He refused to make any predictions on what could happen at the mark-up this week in Committee saying: "I do not have a vote count for you because I think it is much too soon to tell. But I think, the best thing I have going is the merits of the argument."