US stick for India in nuke deal bill

The bill will have provision to suspend N-ties with India if it explodes a nuke device, writes Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 03:45 IST

The final bill in the US Congress providing an India-specific waiver in the US law to permit nuclear commerce with India is likely to "sail through" the Congress, but will "positively include" a provision to suspend all such relations if India explodes a nuclear device.

Senior Indian officials working on the agreement with the United States, including Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, have insisted that such a clause in the bilateral agreement would be unacceptable.

India has a voluntary moratorium in place after the 1998 nuclear tests at Pokhran.

Former US Deputy Secretary of State and President of the Brookings Institution, Strobe Talbott, said, "None of the so-called 'killer' amendments (in the forthcoming Senate bill) will impinge in any way on Indian sovereignty."

But some of the wording of clauses in the bill could cause "more problems in India" than in the United States, Talbott said on Monday, speaking at the Observer Research Foundation.

"The bill would positively include" a reference to the US suspending "all nuclear collaboration" if India should explode a nuclear device in the future. But he added, "since the situation is hypothetical, it should not cause any problems," Talbott said.

The onus would be on the US administration and President to implement the problematic aspects, like reporting requirements, he said.

The bill is likely to "sail through the Congress," said Talbott, who has a problem with the deal because of what it does to the international non-proliferation regime, and he expects President (George W) Bush to sign the bill into legislation by the end of the year.

"The bill," Talbott said, "is good for Indo-US relations, but bad for non-proliferation, because India will be given an exception to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the non-proliferation regime."

The Bush administration was not tough enough when it came to issues like restricting production of fissile materials.

First Published: Sep 19, 2006 00:00 IST