Bush sells India N-deal to lawmakers
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Bush sells India N-deal to lawmakers

Efforts to get the congressional nod have begun, writes S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 04:46 IST
S Rajagopalan
S Rajagopalan

In the first push for congressional nod for the Indo-US nuke deal, President George W Bush held discussions with a group of leading lawmakers on Tuesday and sought their support for the measure.

The White House meeting, lasting an hour, was attended by over a dozen lawmakers from both chambers. The group included Richard Lugar, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Hillary Clinton and John Cornyn, Representatives Tom Lantos, Duncan Hunter, Gary Ackerman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Bush, giving a broad overview of the nuke deal, sought their help in seeing the measure through in what many observers believe would be a tough act.

Aware of the complexities, Bush himself wanted to know from the lawmakers the concerns on Capitol Hill on the issue. Some members reportedly pointed to prevailing concerns over undermining the non-proliferation regime, while one or two voiced fears that the deal could embolden China to come up with something similar for Pakistan.

When Ackerman, the Democratic co-chair of the India Caucus, listed some of the challenges that the deal faces among sceptics, Bush quipped: "Thanks for the heads-up".

"President Bush listened very carefully to all that was said and he seemed to appreciate the input," Ackerman later said in a statement, stressing that Bush "must get on the ball and sell it to other members of Congress".

At the meeting, Bush complimented Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his part in negotiating the agreement. Ackerman's statement also quoted Bush as saying that the Prime Minister "brought up no commitments" on the Iranian pipeline issue.

One of the strong critics of the deal to be invited was Congressman Hunter, the California Republican who heads the House Armed Services Committee. In recent days, Hunter has gone on record saying: "The President is trying to ride the nuclear tiger. This thing has to be looked at very, very carefully. I'm sceptical."

First Published: Mar 09, 2006 02:02 IST