A key US Senate panel will consider a bill on Thursday to 'mark up' the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, a second major hurdle to cross for the approval of the landmark agreement.
The 18-member Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote whether to make exemptions in the 1954 Atomic Energy Act to enable US to sell nuclear fuel and technology in return for non-proliferation and safeguard commitments from India.
In his opening remarks to the Senate Committee, released hours before the sitting, its chairman Richard Lugar said the landmark deal was the "most important strategic initiative" undertaken by the Bush administration which provides the country "new diplomatic options" to ensure global stability.
He said by concluding this pact and the far-reaching set of cooperative agreements that accompany it, US President George W Bush has "embraced a long-term outlook" that seeks to enhance the core strength of US foreign policy in a way that will give them "new diplomatic options and improve global stability".
The Republican Senator also outlined provisions of the bill which in his view significantly strengthened the proposals that were first advanced by the administration especially as it related to Congressional oversight and procedures.
Noting that the deal allows India to access nuclear fuel, technology and reactors from the US, which were previously denied as New Delhi did not ratify the NPT, Lugar said Washington will ensure that the civilian nuclear agreement would not "undercut" its responsibilities under the treaty.