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Pro-India Congressman takes on N-deal spoiler
Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC | March 15, 2006 19:52 IST
Last Updated: March 16, 2006 10:59 IST
Congressman Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican and former co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, who is an unambiguous supporter of the US-India civilian nuclear agreement, has taken on non-proliferation advocate Congressman Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, who has vowed to scuttle the deal and introduced legislation to do so.
In a 'Dear Colleague' letter, Wilson, wrote, "As Congress begins to consider legislation implementing the US-India civilian nuclear agreement, we should recognize both the historic nature of this deal and the emerging strategic importance of India in global affairs."
Wilson argued, "India has an excellent record on non-proliferation and its nuclear weapons programme is solely designed as a deterrent, based on India's own legitimate security assessments."
He pointed out that "India has pledged never to use nuclear weapons first. With China, Pakistan, and North Korea all maintaining nuclear weapons programmes, it is unfair to criticize democratic India for taking steps to ensure the safety of its citizens."
"Although many non-proliferation experts have raised objections to this agreement, every single contention they make can be refuted. Further, they blur the distinction between the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the possession of them. To them, India's possession of nuclear weapons makes it just as guilty as Iran, which is trying to acquire such weapons to threaten its neighbours and destabilise the Middle East," Wilson said.
The lawmaker argued that the US-India nuclear deal "takes a realistic assessment of India's nuclear weapons programme and enhances international nonproliferation efforts by working with the International Atomic Energy Agency and is a country we can trust".
"India has had four nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards for decades. Fourteen of their 22 reactors will be under permanent safeguards under this deal. This agreement will create American jobs, burn less fossil fuels, grow our economies, enhance mutual trust, and greatly develop our strategic relationship with India. I urge your support of this historic agreement," Wilson said.
"In light of the dangerous effects that nuclear trade with India could have on national and international security," Markey, along with Republican Congressman Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, had introduced House Congressional Resolution 318 "in order to promote a better alternative", he informed his colleagues.
He explained in his missive, "Our resolution supports strengthened ties between the US and India, including enhanced energy cooperation. However, it also expresses Congressional disapproval of any proposal for nuclear cooperation, which would result in the export of sensitive nuclear materials or technology to any country that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, that has tested nuclear weapons, and that continues to produce fissile material for nuclear bombs."
Urging his colleagues to co-sponsor this resolution, Markey said, "It merely reiterates the standards established by the Congress in US law to govern nuclear cooperation with other countries."