Stressing that the legislative process on the Indo-US civilian nuclear energy deal is "not done", Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the Bush administration is "hard at work" with Congress to pass the initiative before it goes for summer recess this month.
"... Our work is not yet done. The enabling legislation must now be voted on by the full bodies of both houses. So we are hard at work with both houses of Congress, especially with the India caucuses. And we are encouraging both the Senate and House to vote on the civil nuclear initiative this month, before the summer recess" Rice said in her address to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.
Rice also made the point that the legislation has cleared both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee and as the process winds itself up Washington expects India to live up to its part of the commitments as per the accord of July 18, 2005.
"As we work to win passage of the initiative through our own democratic process, I want to note that we are mindful that this decision has also not been easy for Prime Minister Singh and for India. Some in India perhaps want to keep America at arm's length. And the Prime Minister has had his own domestic fights against protectionism, but to his great credit he has won support for the civil nuclear initiative in India.
"Now, we look forward to India fulfilling its remaining commitments under the agreements that we made on July 18th of last year" Rice said.
But Rice also made a pointed reference that the United States does not support India joining the Non proliferation Treaty as a nuclear weapons state.
"Let me be clear: We do not support India joining the Non Proliferation Treaty as a nuclear weapon state. Rather, the goal of our initiative is to include India, for the first time ever, in the global non-proliferation regime.
"By requiring India to place two-thirds of its existing and planned civil nuclear reactors under the watchful eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency, this initiative would be a net gain for the cause of nonproliferation worldwide" Rice said pointing to the backing of Britain, France and Russia as also the support of Mohamed ElBaradei, "the custodian of global nonproliferation".
Rice argued that the key to unlocking the full promise" of bilateral partnership is the civilian nuclear deal that was put forth at the time of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the United States last July.
"Consider where the United States and India were before we launched this initiative: We had a difficult relationship in many ways. We had failed nonproliferation policies and we had the wrong incentives on energy security and environmental protection. The main obstacle to enhanced cooperation, of course, was India's unique nuclear record -- the fact that it had developed nuclear weapons, yet had never signed the Nonproliferation Treaty but it had never proliferated its nuclear technology" she said.
By addressing India's unique situation, creatively and responsibly, our civil-nuclear initiative will elevate our partnership to a new strategic level" the Secretary of State said going on to talk of other benefits that the administration and officials have advanced in the past: enhancing ene rgy security, benefitting the environment, creating opportunities for American jobs and adding to the stability and security of the international system.
"We desire to strengthen this regime(non-proliferation), which is why we believe that India's continued isolation from it is the wrong policy" Rice remarked.
At the initial stages of her address Rice spoke of the fact that America will remain open and welcome "even as we secure our borders" and highlighted the fact that there are more Indians studying in the United States right now -- 80,000 -- than at any time in history.
"And of course our partnership of peoples runs both ways, because there are thousands of Americans who are living in India -- in cities like Delhi and Mumbai and in Bangalore. They are taking part in India's rich culture. They are becoming active members of Indian society. And they're doing their part to build a partnership that touches fields as diverse as agriculture and health and commerce and defence and science and technology and education" she said.