Prospects of an early floor debate and vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal legislation appear to have brightened amid indications that a protracted hitch over the Additional Protocol issue is close to resolution.
Although an official announcement was still awaited, well-placed sources indicated that “some broad compromise” has been reached on the issue arising out of the tagging of an unrelated Additional Protocol to the India bill.
Amid continuing talks to resolve the issue, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran was slated to hold key meetings with Senate leaders and senior Bush administration officials on Thursday.
Among those Saran would be calling on is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who will have the final say in deciding on the date for the debate and the vote. October 6 is the target date for adjournment of the Senate. A spokesperson for Frist confined herself to saying that talks were continuing with the aim of bringing the deal to the floor for the debate and vote during the current session itself.
One of the Republican Senators who had put a hold on the bill over the Additional Protocol issue was on Wednesday said to have agreed to relent following the incorporation of “compromise language” on the matter. According to reports, Senator Eric Ensign from Nevada was satisfied with the change.
A couple of other Republican Senators had also raised serious concerns over the protocol, which had nothing to do with nuclear cooperation with India but had domestic implications and by way expanded inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency of US nuclear facilities.
Details of the compromise efforts in the works were not available. As such, there was no immediate knowing if the controversial Title II relating to the protocol will be stripped from the India legislation or will be retained with modified language.
The Bush administration has been pro-active on an early Senate vote as that would give enough time to reconcile its version of the legislation with the one already passed by the House of Representatives. Once reconciled, the bill will have to be voted upon anew by both chambers.
The Senate debate issue figured in Saran's discussions with Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns in New York on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.