The International Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill seeking an exemption for India from the discriminatory nuclear regime that exists under the US law.
Of the 45 committee members who debated the bill, 37 voted in its favour, while five opposed it. The remaining three members abstained from voting.
The Bush administration and New Delhi, said officials, had always been confident of getting a majority for the bill. What was needed was an overwhelming majority to provide a political momentum for a parallel vote in the Senate on Thursday and, eventually, a vote in the full Congress.
Deal opponents had argued that other countries would also seek similar cooperation. Supporters were of the view that the proposed act strengthened the bilateral relationship and brought India into the nuclear mainstream.
Most congressmen who spoke were full of praise for India. Committee chair Henry Hyde said the bill was “profoundly satisfactory”. Ranking Democrat Tom Lantos called it a “defining moment in our relationship with India”.
After the debate, a series of amendments designed to wreck the bill — demanding, among other things, that India sign the NPT and cap its fissile-material production — were voted on by the committee. Four were defeated by over 30 votes. Only one cosmetic amendment was accepted.
Officials said the vote indicated that the strategy of incorporating rhetorical demands of various congressmen to broad base support seemed to have worked.