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House of Representatives votes in favour of N-deal

The Indo-US nuclear deal has been approved by 359 votes to 68, in a major win to President Bush. Indian-American activists, who had worked tirelessly for months, watched the denouement from the sidelines.
None | By S Rajagopalan, Washington
PUBLISHED ON JUL 29, 2006 07:37 PM IST

A small but highly motivated band of lawmakers — most of them leading lights of the India Caucus on Capitol Hill — made the deal happen on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday. And a host of Indian-American activists, who had worked tirelessly for months, watched the denouement from the sidelines.

Apart from Republican Henry Hyde and Democrat Tom Lantos, who co-authored the nuclear-deal legislation, those who worked hard for the passage included Democrats Gary Ackerman, Joseph Crowley, Frank Pallone, Eni Faleomavaega and Eliot Engel, and Republicans Joe Wilson, Ed Royce and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are known to have played a key supportive role in seeing the measure through.

Crowley and Wilson, former co-chairs of the India Caucus, were among the first to send out ‘Dear Colleague’ letters to fellow lawmakers and then followed it up with working the phones.

Crowley's favourite line was that the ‘T’ in NPT stood for tent, and India as a responsible player had to be accommodated in the non-proliferation tent.

“While working on this bill, we encountered resistance from some who did not want this agreement to come to fruition. Thankfully, we were able to overcome their obstructionist efforts and approve this critical measure,” said Wilson, the Republican from South Carolina.

Ackerman, a long-time friend of India and current Democratic co-chair, kept up the tempo of the campaign with his interactions and statement offensive. He effectively countered critics who claimed that the India deal would embolden others like Pakistan to demand a similar arrangement. His line: "If you want to be treated like India, be like India. Be a responsible international actor..."

On Wednesday, it was Ed Royce, another former India Caucus co-chair, who deftly warded off the likes of Ed Markey, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman by making a powerful pitch on why new conditions should not be attached for India in the deal. The California Republican dealt with a series of pointed queries on behalf of Hyde.

For Indian-American groups like the US India Friendship Council, US India Political Action Committee and US India Forum, it was time to savour the success of their efforts. Even so, Ashok Mago, the Texas-based forum's convener, urged community activists to "stay focused" to see the deal through in the Senate.

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