THE OVERWHELMING majority by which the US House of Representatives passed the United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006 (by 359 votes to 68) has come as a “big morale booster” to those involved in pushing it through.
“There’s no way I would’ve predicted a 350-plus vote,” a senior official said about Thursday’s vote and its bipartisan nature, with both Republicans and Democrats offering strong support.
But Indian officials are reserving comment on whether New Delhi's concerns have been met until after the Senate vote and the ‘reconciliation’ or ‘conference’ procedure, aimed at ironing out any differences in the texts of the two bills.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear that India would determine what to do if any aspects of the US legislation were “inconsistent” with the July 18, 2005 statement and the separation plan.
MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna said: “There are concerns that we’ve conveyed to the US to ensure that the final legislation must not deviate from the parameters of the Indo-US Joint Statement of July 18, 2005 and the separation plan.”
A senior official said the concerns related to the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. “It’s for us to determine how we use the spent fuel from our nuclear reactors,” the official said.
Also, the safeguards agreement with the IAEA appears “not India-specific” but more like those agreed upon for non-nuclear weapons states, officials said.
Geoff Pyatt, US deputy chief of mission in India, was more upbeat, calling the passage a “striking development” and “one more very important step in fulfilling the vision of the Indian PM and the US president”.