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Indo-US N-deal bill introduced in Congress
Sridhar Krisnaswami in Washington | March 17, 2006 00:11 IST
Last Updated: March 17, 2006 00:31 IST
The Bush administration Thursday introduced a bill in the US Congress seeking amendment to the Atomic Energy Act to help implement the historic nuclear cooperation deal with India saying the agreement was a net gain for non-proliferation and would bring New Delhi into the non-proliferation regime.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told reporters, "This is a very important agreement for the future of India-America relations and for America. It is net gain for non-proliferation and it will eventually bring India into the NPT regime," he said.
Senator Richard Lugar introduced the bill in the Senate and Henry Hyde placed it in the House of Representatives.
Referring to India's track record of control on nuclear export, Burns said, "India has an excellent record."
Responding to the criticism that the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement or the exception made to India, which is not a signatory to NPT, about nuclear cooperation setting a bad precedent for countries like Iran, he said, "Not a single country has come forward and said that the deal had had an impact on the way they think about Iran."
Burns said the US is in touch with a number of countries of the Nuclear Supply Group and countries like France, UK and Russia supported the deal as did International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
He said the legislative process for approving the Indo-US nuclear deal would go on for several months.
"It is somewhat a lengthy process," he said.
Burns said the Bush administration was encouraged by the number of Senators and Congressmen who supported the agreement and held out the hope that during the course of time perhaps more would "sign on as co-sponsors" of the bill.
After Congressional recess, the two chambers are expected to start hearing on the legislation possibly at the end of this month.
The administration had already delivered its draft proposal to Congressmen last week seeking a waiver for India from the requirements of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 that currently bars nuclear technology and dual-use items trade with countries that do not accept full-scope safeguards on their nuclear facilities.
According to the draft legislation, the US president should make seven determinations to Congress regarding the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Hours before the introduction of the bill, President George W Bush said in Maryland that India "has been a -- is a non-proliferator, has proven to be a non-proliferator for the past 30 years. In other words, they've got a record, and in my judgement should cause the Congress to pass old law to treat them as a new partner."
India wanted to be a part of international agreements that would help deal with proliferation, he said, making a strong case for approval of the pact in Congress.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, said in Sydney that the agreement "strengthens security by expanding the reach" of the IAEA "to have access to Indian civil nuclear facilities, which it currently does not have".
"Everyone understands a growing economy like India needs energy supply and civil nuclear energy is clean, it protects the environment, it can be plentiful and currently India is not capable of pursuing civil nuclear power to the degree that it will need to," she said.