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White House sends N-deal to Congress

The White House sends the text of the landmark Indo-US N-deal to Congress for final approval but it remains unclear if lawmakers will give the accord the greenlight.

world Updated: Sep 11, 2008 13:42 IST

The White House said late on Wednesday it sent the text of a landmark US-India civilian nuclear agreement to Congress for final approval but it remains unclear if lawmakers will give the accord the greenlight.

The proposed deal, signed by President George W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005, offers India access to Western technology and cheap atomic energy as long as it allows UN nuclear inspections of some of its nuclear facilities.

If Congress endorses the agreement it would lift a three decade-old ban on nuclear trade with India.

The White House said in a statement that it was transmitting the text of the agreement and other relevant documents to lawmakers, who returned to work Monday after their August recess and are expected to leave Washington again in late September to campaign ahead of the November 4 elections -- leaving little time for action on the accord.

"The proposed Agreement provides a comprehensive framework for US peaceful nuclear cooperation with India," the statement read. "It permits the transfer of information, non-nuclear material, nuclear material, equipment (including reactors) and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production. It does not permit transfers of any restricted data.

"Sensitive nuclear technology, heavy-water production technology and production facilities, sensitive nuclear facilities, and major critical components of such facilities may not be transferred under the Agreement unless the Agreement is amended," the statement said.

The agreement "will remain in force for a period of 40 years and will continue in force thereafter for additional periods of 10 years each unless either party gives notice to terminate it 6 months before the end of a period," it said, adding that either party can end the agreement before that "on one year's written notice to the other party."

The Bush administration may not have sufficient time to get the deal through Congress but has launched a heavy lobbying effort to try to push the accord through.

US law requires that the Congress be in 30 days of continuous session to consider the deal. Given the targeted date of adjournment of September 26, this would leave only 15 days of continuous session.

India is not a member of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) -- a multinational regulator of sale of nuclear fuel and technology -- recently gave the US-India deal a green light.

But some members of Congress seem reluctant to rush their approval.

"Before we vote, Congress needs to study the NSG decision, along with any agreements that were made behind the scenes to bring it about," said Howard Berman, chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee.

Berman, who plays an influential role in rallying House support for the deal, has demanded that any final agreement must be consistent with a special law -- the Hyde Act -- passed overwhelmingly in 2006 laying the foundation for the nuclear deal.

A key condition under the law is immediate termination of all nuclear commerce by NSG member states if India detonates a nuclear explosive device.

Touting the agreement, the White House said nuclear cooperation between the United States and India "will offer major strategic and economic benefits to both countries, including enhanced energy security, an ability to rely more extensively on an environmentally friendly energy source, greater economic opportunities, and more robust nonproliferation efforts."