Congress members to meet on deal

They are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to reconcile the language of the Bills already passed by both Houses and come up with a draft Bill, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2006 19:39 IST

Ahead of US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns’ visit to New Delhi on Thursday, senior members from both the US House of Representatives and the Senate are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to reconcile the language of the Bills already passed by both Houses and come up with a draft Bill that both Houses of Congress will pass, possibly on Thursday.

India has conveyed its concerns to the United States about the current versions of the American legislation relating to Indo-US nuclear deal, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha today. Replying to written questions, Mukherjee said an amendment to the waiver Bill passed by the US Senate on November 16, 2006 to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India envisages setting up of a Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme to further common non-proliferation goals.

However, no prior discussion on setting up such a programme had taken place between the two governments, Mukherjee said. By its very nature, establishing such a programme would require the agreement of Government of India, which would take a decision after fully taking into account all aspects of the country's national security, Mukherjee said.

Burns on Thursday will meet Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Special Envoy Shyam Saran to fine tune details of the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation deal and review other key aspects of the bilateral relationship.

While Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reassuring him of Congress' commitment to ensure the Bill on Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation is passed, India’s concerns on some of the clauses have been spelt out in a letter Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has sent to the conferees. Signalling the Bush Administration’s commitment to ensuring that the civil nuclear deal is carried through Congress, Rice has urged members on the reconciliation committee to consider solutions she has suggested to make the deal acceptable for the Indian government.

Of these, for House Bill 4(d) 2 and House Bill Section 4(d) 3, which India views as a potential deal breaking clauses, Rice requests the House to defer to the Senate Bill, which does not have a provision triggering “automatic sanction by cutting off all nuclear cooperation in case India violates guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.” The clause 4(d) 2 requires the US to make political commitments to the NSG that it will not allow fuel supplies to India if it violates NSG guidelines.

On the Senate Bill Section 107, which mandates a specific end-use programme for India, Rice says the subject is still being negotiated, and suggests the provision be made non-binding.

Commenting on the likely troublesome clauses, a senior official in the Ministry of External Affairs said, "if any one tells us of an international negotiation in which any side has got 20 on 20, then I will say that the negotiators were no good."

"Obviously, every clause might not be agreeable to us (India), but if the overall Bill adheres to the spirit of the July 18 (2005) agreement, I would say we have a good deal."

Email Nilova: Nilova Roy

First Published: Dec 06, 2006 19:39 IST