We still have a long way to go, says PM
LAST-DITCH OPPOSITION to the India-US civil nuclear cooperation deal was overwhelmingly rejected, with the US Senate voting 85-12 on Thursday in favour of ending the atomic apartheid against India. Tellingly, each of the six “killer” amendments proposed to the bill, which Delhi had said would compel it to reject the nuclear deal, was easily defeated.
US President George W. Bush welcomed the vote, saying on Friday, "The US and India enjoy a strategic partnership based upon common values. Today, the Senate has acted to further strengthen this relationship by passing legislation that will deliver energy, non-proliferation, and trade benefits to the citizens of two great democracies.”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi separately told delegates at the HT Leadership Summit that Delhi welcomed the step forward but suggested that it was still too early to celebrate. The bill passed by the Senate will now be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives in July. Both chambers will then have to approve the legislation in its final form.
The prime minister said there were aspects to the two bills that were not identical. “We have still a long way to go before nuclear cooperation between India and US becomes a living reality,” said Singh. He said the final version of the deal should be in line with “mutual commitments” made in last year’s agreement.
Sonia made the same point. “All those areas that are not acceptable to us will be excluded (from the final document) and only then will we welcome the bill happily,” she said.
In the US Senate, although US congressional leaders had put aside nearly two days for debate, the senators needed only six hours before going for the final vote. The killer amendments were defeated by wide margins. Though all the “No” votes were by Democrats, the sheer size of the victory margin indicated strong bipartisan support.
This was underlined by Senator Joe Biden, Democratic co-sponsor of the bill. He stressed that the deal was part of the trend begun by former president Bill Clinton and accelerated by Bush.