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Nuclear bill is a serious mistake, warn critics
June 28, 2006 13:46 IST
Despite the easy and overwhelming approval of the legislation governing the India-United States civilian nuclear deal, the bill itself has not been without controversy.
The reference to Iran, which had created a tremendous controversy during the nine months that the US House of Representatives took to bring this legislation to the Committee for mark-up, was totally missing, especially in the context of India vis-�-vis Iran ''even though the Committee spent more than four hours debating the mark-up legislation.'' The House International Relations Committee passed the legislation moving forward the India-US civilian nuclear accord with a thumping majority of 37-5 votes.
Sceptics in the US Congress have expressed doubts about extending civil nuclear technology to India, which is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Republican representative Jim Leach lamented it was ''a sad day in the world of arms control and the rule of law.''
''Anyone who wants to present this as a happy day is making a serious mistake,'' he said, adding that officially sanctioning India's nuclear program ''is a foolish direction to go in.'' He said the deal ''knifed'' the NPT.
Leach said the passage of the India-US nuclear deal would open the door to several countries to press claims for similar nuclear cooperation, including South Korea, Japan, Iran and North Korea.
Under the deal, the United States will allow sensitive nuclear technology to India in return for New Delhi placing its civil nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency inspection.
The US Atomic Energy Act of 1954 currently prevents the United States from trading nuclear technology with nations that have not signed the NPT. Hence the Bush administration sought to amend the act to have some India-specific waivers.
Some lawmakers opposed to the deal saying it would not only make it harder to enforce rules against rogue states like Iran and North Korea, but also set a dangerous precedent for other countries with nuclear ambitions.
''We intend to make the case that the purported benefits of this deal are an illusion and the risks to the international nuclear nonproliferation regime are quite real,'' said Democratic Representative Ed Markey, one of the chief opponents to the agreement.
Democrat Congressman from New York Gary Ackerman had this response to critics who asserted the accord sends the wrong message to others, such as Iran and North Korea, as well as to Pakistan. ''If you want to be treated like India, be like India, a responsible country with regard to weapons of mass destruction technologies,'' Ackerman added.
Democrat Congressman Tom Lantos, who was instrumental in denouncing India's support to Iran, made no mention of it. In fact, he made extremely pro-India statements. Replying to criticism the legislation was India-specific, he said, ''This is an accurate characterisation. India is unique and this legislation is, in a very fundamental sense, unique.''
Lantos said, ''India also shares our passionate opposition to violent, militant Islam...'' He went on to say as he had proposed last month, Congress will be required to vote a second time before any nuclear cooperation with India can move forward.
This second vote would take place only after Congress will have reviewed all of the details of the agreement for cooperation that are currently being negotiated, after India and the IAEA will have concluded a safeguards agreement and after the Nuclear Suppliers Group will have acted to allow nuclear cooperation with India, he added.
''The balanced legislation before us today will provide the administration with some of the authority it sought to allow expanded peaceful, nuclear-related trade with India to take place, but certainly not all,'' Lantos said.