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US lawmaker seeks rejection of N-deal

Representative Howard Berman would introduce his own bill seeking to make it tough to have nuclear coop with US.

india Updated: May 11, 2006 22:21 IST

Claiming that the Indo-US civil nuclear deal did nothing to limit India's production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, a senior lawmaker has asked his colleagues to reject it.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter, Representative Howard Berman, who is also a member of the Congressional India Caucus, said he would introduce his own bill seeking to make it tough for countries to have nuclear cooperation with US.

The deal "does nothing to limit India's production of fissile material for nuclear weapons (all five countries recognised as nuclear weapons states under the NPT have halted production of fissile material)," he claimed in the letter.

"In fact, it would enable India to significantly expand its production of plutonium, because by allowing India to import uranium to fuel its civilian nuclear plants, India could devote all of its scarce domestic uranium supply to weapons production," said the California Democrat.

Berman said his bill would be 'country-neutral' and apply to nations that have not signed Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It would establish a set of conditions that a non-NPT country must meet to become eligible for civilian nuclear cooperation with the US, he added.

"The Administration and the Indians will undoubtedly claim they are deal breakers. But given India's desperate need for fuel to power its civilian nuclear reactors, I suspect there is some flexibility in their negotiating position, a proposition that was never put to the test by the Administration," said Berman, a member of House International Relations Committee.

Berman claimed that Bush administration "conceded" on almost every point and alleged Congress was kept in the dark until after the Indo-US civil nuclear accord was signed.

"I accept the fact that India has nuclear weapons and will never sign the NPT. I also believe it would be shortsighted to rule out civilian nuclear cooperation with India, especially in light of its increasing need for energy. But I have serious concerns about the specific deal we are being asked to support," he said.

"I challenge the assertion that this agreement, as currently conceived, is a net plus for non-proliferation. On the contrary, one can make a strong argument that changing long-established and almost universally accepted rules to accommodate one country -- without a compelling non-proliferation gain on the other side of the ledger -- could undermine US efforts to prevent the spread of sensitive nuclear technology," he said in the letter.

The Congressman said his proposed bill would preserve the prerogative of Congress to examine the details of a nuclear cooperation agreement and approve it by majority vote before it goes into effect.

"... Under the Administration's legislative proposal, Congress could only block even a deeply flawed nuclear cooperation agreement with India by passing a resolution of disapproval by a veto-proof two thirds majority, an almost impossible hurdle," the lawmaker pointed out.

Berman said that his proposed legislation was not to be seen as an attempt to "kill" the civilian nuclear energy deal but a "good-faith effort to strike an appropriate balance between two compelling US national interests: enhancing our relationship with this growing power, and preserving meaningful, internationally-accepted rules on nuclear non-proliferation."