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US House takes up N-deal Bill

The legislation has broad bipartisan support and is expected to clear the House without much difficulty.
None | By Press Trust of India, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 27, 2006 04:58 AM IST

Setting in motion the process to amend a law that bars nuclear commerce with India, the US House of Representatives on Wednesday took up for voting a legislation to implement the historic Indo-US nuclear deal.

The United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006 has broad bipartisan support and is expected to clear the House of Representatives without much difficulty.

President George W Bush, who reached an agreement on the deal with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh just over a year ago, has made the deal one of his main foreign policy initiatives.

Lawmakers have made last-ditch efforts to attach conditions to the bill that they said were aimed at preventing India from increasing its nuclear arsenal. These amendments were discussed on Tuesday by the House Rules Committee during closed door deliberations.

It is expected that there would be a debate of two to three hours on the bill, followed by a vote. The vote is part of a drawn out legislative process to ratify the deal, which also has to be cleared by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The legislation, once passed, will exempt India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, from US laws that prohibit nuclear trade with countries that have not submitted themselves to full international inspections.

The nuclear deal has already been endorsed by two key panels of the US Congress -- the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee.

Hours before the House of Representatives took up the legislation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Parliament that India would make no compromise on the provisions of the Indo-US joint statement of July 18 last year.

Reacting to concerns over certain aspects of the proposed US law to implement the civilian nuclear deal, he said, "I wish to assure the House that we will never compromise in a manner which is inconsistent with the provisions of the Joint Statement of July 18."

Singh asserted there would be "utmost transparency" in clinching the nuclear deal with the US and that the Government would not accept any new conditions or obligations.

Demands from the Left parties and BJP for a resolution in Parliament on the nuclear deal are raising concerns in the Government.

The Government has said it will address the Left's concerns on the issue, but CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury told a press conference, "Our apprehensions (about the deal) are coming true." The ongoing debates in the US Senate and Congress "are making it clear that Washington wants India to be dependent on it for all nuclear supplies".

Asking the Government not to go beyond the assurances given by the Prime Minister in Parliament, he said, "That must be the bottomline."

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