The India-US civilian nuclear agreement began its journey through US Congress on a promising note at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
The agreement is not perfect, but lawmakers must approve it, said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, who presided over the meeting in the absence of chairman Joe Biden. “We would be well advised to approve it this month... rather than waiting until next year,” said Dodd, a Democrat.
Sen Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the committee and a non-proliferation advocate, was also hopeful of early passage. “I am confident that if we have total cooperation from the administration and strong bipartisan teamwork here in Congress, we can succeed.”
Waiver of a rule requiring 30 days of consideration before a vote will open the measure to amendments, but their chances of success are low given the broad bipartisan support the agreement enjoys, analysts said.
The Bush administration fielded Undersecretary of State William Burns and Acting Undersecretary John Rood to make the case for quick ratification and answer questions.
The agreement has moved US-India relations “farther and faster forward than any other step”, Burns said. It also advances US non-proliferation goals and offers far-reaching economic, environmental and security benefits for both countries. Congress must approve the agreement now to ensure US companies aren't placed at a disadvantage, he said. Rood said the US did not make any side deals to achieve consensus at the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. The text of the statement adopted by the NSG is consistent with the Hyde Act, he said.