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'Ties may suffer if Indo-US N-deal not taken up'

US Senate Majority leader Bill Frist warns that failure to take up the nuclear deal may lead to "disappointments" in India.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2006 11:47 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

With slim hopes of the US Senate taking up the Indo-US nuclear deal for consideration before it recess, Majority leader Bill Frist has warned lawmakers that failure to take it up would lead to such "disappointments" in India that bilateral ties could suffer a "setback" by many years.

The Senate Majority Leader also mounted fresh criticism on the Democrats for not passing the legislation as it stood and added that some of the "killer" amendments proposed by them will be rejected by the Government of India.

Making closing statements on the floor of the Senate late on Thursday night, Frist first talked about extending the legislation with Iran that has been acted upon by the House of Representatives by a voice vote and then referred to India.

"The second very important bill affecting our foreign policy that is today pending before the Senate is the United States India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act, S 3709.

This bill was reported by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 20 and has been pending before us since.

"Enactment of this legislation is essential in order to begin a new era in relations between our nation and India the world's largest democracy.

This legislation will enable us to commence cooperation with India in the area of civil nuclear energy, something that is today contrary to US law.

"We need to be able to do this to fulfill commitments President Bush made to Prime Minister Singh of India on July 18 of last year," Frist said.

The Republican leaders said "If we are unable to fulfill these commitments the disappointments in India will be such that US-India relations could be setback by many years and a promise of a new era in relations that was born on July 18 of last year will be lost".

"Like the Iran Bill the India legislation has been cleared on our side of the aisle.

Republican members of the United States Senate are ready to approve the Manager's Amendment to S3709 tonight in its current form with no further debate or amendment... The same is not true on the other side of the aisle.

Senate Democrats are not ready to pass tonight the Manager's amendment to this legislation in its current form, he said.

"This is regrettable because if the Democrats were to permit us to pass this Bill tonight we could send this Bill to conference over the recess where the differences between the House Bill could be resolved and we could be assured of sending this Bill to the President before we adjourn.

"I understand that the reason they are not prepared to pass the legislation is because they have a large number of amendments that they wish to offer," the Majority Leader said.

"Some of these Democrats' amendments are so called killer amendments which if adopted would simply make this legislation unacceptable to the Indian government" he added.

"Others of the Democrat amendments are not unnecessarily designed to kill the legislation but their sheer volume will slow down this whole process considerably and could as a practical matter make it impossible for the Senate to consider this legislation this year," he said.

The Republican leader said he would work with his colleague Senator Harry Reid to come up with some sort of unanimous consent agreement that would enable us to consider this legislation in a reasonable period of time.

"We have not yet succeeded but I will keep trying. We need to bring this matter to a resolution before we recess," Frist emphasised.

First Published: Sep 29, 2006 11:32 IST