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US Cong will pass N-deal: India

In order for India to enjoy the benefits, the deal has to be passed by the US Congress and the 45-nation NSG.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 15:14 IST

India's self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons testing should assuage doubts US lawmakers may have about passing a civil nuclear deal, Indian Minister of Power Sushil Kumar Shinde said on Tuesday.

The testing issue has emerged as the latest wrinkle in the sweeping deal which would give India access for the first time in three decades to US and foreign nuclear technology, including fuel and reactors, to meet India's soaring civilian energy needs.

It must be approved by the US Congress and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

In the breakthrough agreement-in-principle on civilian nuclear cooperation last July 18, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a unilateral declaration that India would maintain a voluntary moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.

The United States and India are now negotiating a more detailed peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement required under US law and proposed by the Bush administration which includes reference to the testing moratorium.

Many Indians interpreted the reference as a US move to force India to agree to a permanent ban on nuclear testing and Indian officials said last week they would not make such an explicit commitment.

India has long refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, arguing it divides the world into nuclear haves and have-nots.

But US officials and experts say that instead of committing India to a test ban, the provision asserts the US legal right to halt cooperation under the accord if India conducts a weapons test.

"If the Indians mean what they say (about not testing), they should have no quibble with this provision," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the private Arms Control Association.

US officials indicated on Monday that they were prepared to negotiate exact language with India on this point.

Kimball said if the administration backed off from the standard practice of reserving the US right to halt cooperation in the event of weapons testing, "it would be giving India more favorable treatment than any other of the 40 countries" with which Washington has nuclear cooperation accords.

Shinde said the world welcomed the US-India deal and "I think that in the course of time even the American senators, regardless of party, will."

The nuclear deal represents a major warming in US-India relations but raised fears that it waters down efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

India has not signed the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, has produced nuclear weapons outside international standards and refuses to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

First Published: Apr 26, 2006 12:15 IST