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Home > News > PTI > Report

US House Committee takes up bill on Indo-US N-deal

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | June 27, 2006 20:50 IST
Last Updated: June 27, 2006 23:41 IST


A crucial Committee in the American Congress began considering a bill on Tuesday, which seeks exemptions in a US law for implementing the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

The bill's opponents stated that other countries would also seek similar cooperation while supporters were of the view that the proposed act strengthens oversight role of the legislature.

Opposing the bipartisan bill, proposed to be cited as 'United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006', Republican representative Jim Leach said 'today is a sad day' in the history of non-proliferation. Passage of the nuclear deal would open the door for 'a whole host of countries to press claims for similar nuclear cooperation', he said as the 50-member House International Relations Committee took up the bill for finetunine or markup.

In this context, he named friendly countries like South Korea and Japan as also Iran and North Korea, which are part of what Bush Administration considers the 'axis of evil'.

But Democrat Henry Hyde and Republican Tom Lantos, the co-authors of the bill that seeks to make exemptions to the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, were of the view that the legislation would strengthen the Congressional role by having legislators vote only after Congress had seen a final nuclear cooperation deal with India.

Hyde said the earlier bill was 'profoundly unsatisfactory' because it removed Congress's oversight role. "I would caution the Adminitration to pay close attention to Congressional concerns," he added.

But Leach said, "Anyone who wants to present this as a happy day is making a very serious mistake." He added that the Non-Proliferation Treaty 'has been knifed by an executive action'.

The bi-partisan bill is sponsored by the Committee Chair Henry Hyde, the ranking member Tom Lantos, Republican Congresswoman Ilena Ros Lehtinen and New York Democrat Gary Ackerman.

After the vote on the legislation by the Committee, it will be sent to the 435-member House of Representatives for consideration and voting.

A similar measure is due for a 'mark up' at the 18-member Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

The draft bill of the House Committee circulated on Monday says that preventing proliferation of nuclear arms, other weapons of mass destruction, and the means to produce and deliver them are critical objectives of US foreign policy. 

Additionally, it has been said that sustaining the NPT and strengthening its implementation, particularly its verification and compliance, is the keystone of the US non-proliferation policy.

It adds that the NPT has been a significant success in preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons capabilities and maintaining a stable international security situation.

In the non-operative section is also a reference to Iran, which calls for securing India's 'full and active participation in United States' efforts to dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons capability (including the capability to enrich or process nuclear materials), and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction'.

The legislation also seeks to halt the increase of nuclear weapon arsenals in South Asia, and to promote their reduction and eventual elimination.

Among his submissions to Congress, US President George W Bush will have to describe steps taken by India to work with US for conclusion of a multilateral treaty banning production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. This must include a description of the steps that US has taken and will take to encourage India to identify and declare a date by which India would be willing to stop production of fissile material for nuclear weapons unilaterally or pursuant to a multilateral moratorium or treaty.

The legislation stipulates the conditions under which the termination of nuclear transfers to India could be effected.

These include - if India makes any materially significant transfer of nuclear or nuclear-related material equipment, or technology that does not conform to NSG guidelines, or if ballistic missiles or missile-related equipment or technology that does not conform to Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines, unless the President determines that cessation of such exports would be seriously prejudicial to the achievement of US non-proliferation objectives or otherwise jeopardize the common defence and security. 

In the critical operative part the determination that would have to be made by the President would include that India has provided the US and International Atomic Energy Agency with a credible plan to separate civil and military nuclear facilities, materials, and programmes and has filed a declaration regarding its civil facilities with the IAEA.

It would also include that India and IAEA have concluded an agreement requiring the application of IAEA safeguards in perpetuity in accordance with IAEA standards, principles, and practices; and that India and the IAEA are making substantial progress toward concluding an Additional Protocol consistent with IAEA principles, practices, and policies that would apply to India's civilian nuclear programme.

Further, the President would have to make a determination that India is working actively with the US for the early conclusion of a multilateral Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and is working with and supporting the US and international efforts to prevent the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology; that steps are being taken by New Delhi to secure nuclear and other sensitive materials and technology.

Significantly, the section on General Statements of Policy the Bill talks of the US policy toward South Asia that would include achieving a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive purposes by India,Pakistan and China at the earliest possible date.

The bill also speaks of India's full participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative; export control laws, regulations and policies with the Australia Group and with the Guidelines, Procedures, Criteria, and Control Lists of the Wassennaar Arrangement.

Complete coverage: The Indo-US nuclear deal

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