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Capitol Hill cautious

In a pointer to the tough road ahead, the Indo-US nuke deal has evoked a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill, writes S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 00:44 IST

In a pointer to the tough road ahead, the Indo-US nuke deal has evoked a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill, even as the non-proliferation lobby upped its ante by urging Congress not to approve the arrangement in its present form.

In a measured statement, Henry Hyde, the influential chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said he welcomed the "further strengthening of US-India cooperation". But added: "It is the responsibility of this committee to thoroughly examine the specific provisions of this agreement and its potential consequences for US interests and those of the international community."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said: "While I believe that the Congress will support this agreement, it is important to take into consideration the non-proliferation concerns raised by some of my colleagues. I look forward to receiving detailed briefings."

There was no immediate word from Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar, but the panel's ranking Democrat Joe Biden said: "The administration must show Congress it will make us more secure by bringing India into closer compliance with international non-proliferation norms."

A strong show of support for the deal came from some of the leading lights of the Congressional Caucus on India: Democratic co-chair Gary Ackerman termed the deal "the right strategic choice" for the US.

Former co-chairs Republican Joe Wilson and Democrat Joseph Crowley have already begun circulating a letter to fellow lawmakers, urging them to "seize this opportunity to cultivate our strategic partnership with the world's largest democracy".

Congressman Edward Markey made it clear that he will press ahead with his opposition. He commented that "with one simple move, the President has blown a hole in the nuclear rules”.

Robert J. Einhorn, a former State Department official on non-proliferation, bitterly complained that India had "accomplished all its goals" by "retaining the rights to import uranium and produce plutonium while earning recognition as a nuclear power"

First Published: Mar 04, 2006 00:44 IST