N-deal to be debated in US House on Wednesday
The landmark Indo-US nuclear deal gets into legislative gear on Wednesday when the House of Representatives takes it up for debate and vote to facilitate the implementation of the pact, which would mark an important step in transforming the strategic alliance between the two countries.
The legislation -- The United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act -- has broad bi-partisan support and is expected to clear the House without much difficulty.
Ahead of the debate, the powerful Rules Committee of the House is meeting to finalise the framework of debate and in the amendments that will be allowed to be voted upon.
The expectation is that there will be some two to three hours of debate, which will then be followed by a vote.
Wednesday's vote is part of a drawn out legislative process to ratify the deal, which also has to be cleared by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an assembly of nations that export nuclear material.
The deal, signed last year by US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already been endorsed by two crucial Congressional panels.
Last month the House International Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly to move the Bill to the floor of the House. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also moved its version of the legislation by a strong bipartisan vote.
"The measure is an important step in transforming the strategic alliance of two of the oldest and largest democracies while strengthening international security" the Chair of the House International Relations Committee Henry Hyde remarked while Marking Up the legislation in his committee on June 27.
And what has complicated matters for the supporters of the legislation is news from Pakistan that it is greatly enhancing its nuclear programme.
The Bush Administration's acknowledgment that it had known Pakistani plans for sometime has not helped either.
One impression is that the administration has withheld critical information from Congress and at a time when the legislature is considering the civilian nuclear deal and all its ramifications including the possibility of an arms race in the sub continent.
"...We are about to consider ground breaking legislation that tailors United States policy to new global realities, advances our country's non proliferation goals and reinforces the critical Congressional role of oversight of the Executive Branch," Ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee Tom Lantos said during the Mark Up of the legislation in the Panel.
"The administration also asked that Congress to waive all the current prohibitions on nuclear cooperation with India. Our balanced legislation...Will provide the administration with some of the authority it sought to allow expanded peaceful, nuclear related trade with India to take place, but certainly not all," Lantos remarked.