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US working to address India's N-deal concerns

White House says it would also oppose any amendment tagging N-deal with India's Iran policies. Can India back out?

india Updated: Aug 01, 2006 12:46 IST

The Bush Administration says it is working closely with the Congress to meet Indian concerns over addition of new legislative conditions to the India-US nuclear deal that are "beyond the scope of our July 2005 commitments" and could warrant a return to the negotiating table.

It has also made clear its own opposition to such provisions requiring India to cap its production of fissile material, restricting its future nuclear supplies by codifying political guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and asking New Delhi to tailor its policies toward Iran in concert with Washington.

The administration is working very closely with the Congress to ensure that fundamental principles of the India-US nuclear deal are not touched so that it can move forward on the agreement, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday.

Indian parliamentarians are well familiar with the democratic process in the US and know that its legislative branch has certain prerogatives and they exercise those prerogatives, he said in response to questions about Indian concerns over the enabling legislation passed by the House of Representatives.

"We have been working very closely with them so that they exercise those prerogatives in such a way, in the form of amendments or other types of things, so that the fundamental principles of the agreement with India are not touched so that you can move forward on this agreement," he said.

In a statement of administration policy last week, the White House made clear its opposition to any legislative provision that would require renegotiation of what was agreed to in the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement of President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The administration would also oppose any provisions that "would be beyond the scope of our July 2005 commitments", the office of management and budget in the executive office of the president stated identifying its concerns with certain provisions of the House bill.

As this significant piece of legislation moves through the legislative process, the administration looks forward to working with Congress to address such concerns as those over provisions requiring India to cap its production of fissile material before cooperation could occur, it said.

The United States should not hold up the significant non-proliferation gains afforded by this initiative in order to seek a fissile material cap to which India has indicated it cannot agree, absent a similar undertaking by Pakistan and China, said the policy statement.

Moreover, the United States and India are engaged in discussions on a multilateral Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, to be negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament, and the US is pressing for substantial progress in that context, it pointed out.

The administration would also oppose any amendment conditioning co-operation with India upon India's policies toward Iran, which would be beyond the scope of our July 2005 commitments, it said.

"India has agreed to support international efforts to limit the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, including to states such as Iran.

"As a responsible member of the international community, India has supported our efforts to address Iran's nuclear programme, voting twice in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors to find Iran in non-compliance with IAEA safeguards and to report the issue to the UN Security Council.

"India has made the decision that it is in its own national security interest to oppose the development of Iran's nuclear weapons programme, the policy statement said.

Other provisions in the House legislation that the Bush administration is opposed to include:

Section 4(d), which restricts nuclear transfers to India, would codify political guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for future supply to India, with the result that the US would be the only NSG country legally bound by these requirements.

"Such a provision will not advance US non-proliferation objectives and could prove counterproductive, in effect limiting the ability of the United States to negotiate with other NSG members and weakening the voluntary, cooperative nature of the NSG regime, which is the foundation of its success," it said.

Section 3, which purports to dictate the foreign policy of the US with respect to critical national security issues, would infringe upon the president's constitutional authority to conduct the nation's foreign affairs.

Sections 4(c) and (o), which would require the president to disclose the current status of, and future strategy for, diplomatic negotiations regarding non-proliferation issues, would infringe upon the president's constitutional responsibility over the timing and the contents of the disclosure of sensitive diplomatic information.

The administration also urged consolidation of the many reporting requirements found in the House legislation and requested that it place a "sunset provision on such reporting requirements".

Strongly supporting the House passage of "this historic initiative", facilitating nuclear energy co-operation between the world's two largest democracies, the policy statement noted that an important feature of the legislation is the procedure for a joint resolution of approval that ensures an up-or-down vote without amendment.

The administration is pleased that the House bill grants the president authorities related to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, consistent with the Joint Statement of President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh in July 2005, it said.

The India-US nuclear deal "is part of a profound transformation in the way the United States and India are partnering to promote energy security, prosperity, democracy, stability, and peace in the region and around the world," the statement added.