Deal won?t trip on Pak nuke plan
As the House of Representatives gets set for Wednesday's floor vote on the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal, Congressional sources have discounted the possibility of a report on Pakistani nuclear expansion casting a shadow on the enabling legislation.
Official word on the House debate and vote on the deal was expected after a meeting of the chamber's Rules Committee on Tuesday, but sources said the legislation was likely to be taken up on Wednesday afternoon.
Critics of the deal, egged on by the non-proliferation lobby, are said to be mounting a last-ditch bid to scuttle it, but key legislators belonging to the India Caucus said the measure will be approved by a big margin.
They stressed that the legislation, the United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act, has broad bipartisan support as evidenced by the overwhelming 37-5 vote in the House International Relations Committee last month.
But there are indications that critics will not let go the opportunity presented by the Institute for Science and International Security's latest report on Pakistan's nuclear expansion and its purported fillip to a South Asian nuclear arms race. Congressman Ed Markey, who has led the opposition to the deal, said: "If either India or Pakistan starts increasing its nuclear arsenal, the other side will respond in kind. The deal with India is making that much more likely."
The Bush administration, for its part, let it be known that it has not been taken unawares by the report. "We have been aware of these plans and we discourage any use of that facility weapons development," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.