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US lawmakers supportive, but await details

Several Republican leaders are backing the landmark agreement. Highlights | Pics

india Updated: Mar 05, 2006 00:21 IST

Several influential lawmakers have opted to reserve their opinion on the Indo-US nuke deal until the Bush administration delivers details of Thursday's agreement signed in New Delhi and comes up with its draft legislative package.

While broadly welcoming the forging of strategic partnership with India, the lawmakers

have signalled that they will closely look at the deal's implications for the non-proliferation regime before making up their mind.

The heads of the two committees that will have the principal say in the approval process — the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee —have indicated that as of now they are awaiting details of the agreement.

Aides said on Friday that Richard Lugar, chairman of the powerful Senate panel, will be "looking forward to learning more about the details of the progress made on the nuclear power agreement with India and getting a draft legislation from the Bush Administration".

Indian cockles, however,

will be warmed by a fuller statement of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that has now

been made available — as also the remarks by senior Congressman Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee,

and Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Forces Committee.

Terming it a "historic" and "bold" agreement to forge strategic partnership, Frist said: "Although India is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has not proliferated nuclear technology. I am encouraged by the fact that this agreement will, for the first time, require a majority of India's nuclear reactors to be placed under international safeguards. The agreement will help bring India into the non-proliferation mainstream, improve nuclear safety, and strengthen their export controls."

"That said, Congress needs to review the agreement and understand its details before agreeing to change the current law. The implications of this deal on America's non-proliferation efforts needs to be addressed, as well as the impact it will have on our bilateral trade, energy goals, technology sharing, and our overall strategic partnership with India," he noted.

Lantos, in his comments, noted that "a reliable and dependable strategic partnership is in the interest of both out great countries".

He felt that this agreement "could herald an even closer relationship between the United States and India".

He, however, made it a point to stress that the Congress will have to carefully evaluate the details of the agreement to assure itself that the deal will indeed support the US's political and security objectives.

Voicing similar sentiments, Republican Ed Royce, a former co-chair of India Caucus, spoke of the "enthusiastic support on Capitol Hill for growing US-India ties" and then going on to say that the nuke deal's implications go beyond these relations.

Royce, who heads the subcommittee on international terrorism and non-proliferation, said: "In this process, the goal of curbing nuclear proliferation should be paramount."

Senator Warner, voicing support for the deal, termed it "a positive step that will permit US cooperation with India on nuclear energy, while bringing India's civilian nuclear program under the supervision of the IAEA".