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Rediff.com  » News » No goal-posts being moved in N-deal: Senator Lugar

No goal-posts being moved in N-deal: Senator Lugar

August 03, 2006 02:26 IST

Senator Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has asked why -- if India is cognizant of US policy that under the terms of the US-India civilian nuclear agreement it will not be provided with enrichment or reprocessing technologies or technologies for the production of heavy water -- New Delhi has a problem with this policy being written into law.

India has said it's unhappy with this provision being included in the enabling legislation -- authored by Lugar and the Committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware -- that was approved by a margin of 16-2 on June 29 as a means to facilitate the US-India civilian nuclear agreement. The Lugar/Biden legislation now awaits action by the full Senate, which is expected to be some time in September after the Congress returns from its summer recess.

During a hearing by his Committee to consider the nomination of John Rood to be Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Lugar said, "Some Indian government officials have argued that this prohibition in the Senate bill moves the goal-posts set by the original July 2005 agreement."

"(But) I would simply ask, did New Delhi not understand United States policy? If they did understand the policy, please give us your opinion on why they oppose placing the prohibition into law, if they can accept the existence of the policy," he asked Rood.

Lugar said that including this prohibition in the legislation was consequent to arguments made 'during our hearing and during our mark-up, when the majority of members of the Committee felt it was important to state the policy'.

Rood, who currently works in the White House's National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterproliferation Strategy, said that while India fully understands that under the terms of the deal, the US has no intention of providing it with uranium enrichment or reprocessing technologies or technologies to produce heavy water, the Administration would have much preferred 'to maintain this practice as a matter of policy as opposed to a matter of law'.

"And the reason is," he explained in trying to rationalize India's pique, "such a statutory prohibition - 'a flat ban' - that singles out sales to India, we think singles India out since we don't apply similar statutory bans on trade and enrichment reprocessing to other nations."

Rood reiterated that 'the Administration has been clear throughout our dealings with the Indians about what our policy on enrichment and reprocessing technologies is. In fact, this was an important feature of what we discussed with the Indians that led up to the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement, which included language under which the Indian government agreed with us to limit the spread of enrichment reprocessing technologies internationally'.

While appreciating the wavier authority afforded the Administration by the Lugar/Biden legislation to export to India proliferation-resistance technologies, Rood said, "We would have preferred to have maintained our policy as a matter of policy that the US would not export enrichment, reprocessing or heavy water production technologies to India."

Rood also said with regard to another provision in the Lugar/Biden bill that India has a major problem with 'where in Section 107 there is a requirement that the US establish an end-use monitoring system to track nuclear technology exports to India to ensure the United States has a means beyond relying on IAEA safeguards system to make sure US exports are not diverted to India's weapons program', it was essentially an matter of trust.

While Lugar argued that 'this section is not without precedence' - a similar requirement exists with China - Rood said why India once again believes this provision is yet another case of moving the goal-posts from the July 18,2005 agreement was because this had not been discussed as a run-up to the July 2005 Joint Statement.

He noted that 'as you know, we have in the United States, some existing end-use verification procedures, agencies like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Energy Department and the Commerce Department operate'.

"We would have preferred to rely on these existing mechanisms as opposed to creating an additional end-use verification procedure for India in this legislation," he said.

Rood pointed out that 'we did not discuss creation of such a framework with the Indians during our discussions with them,' and consequently, 'the reason that we have some concern about it is that the Indian government sees the creation of the end-use verification procedures as implying a lack of trust in them and so naturally, they have some concerns about that'.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC