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Condoleezza Rice heads to India to ink nuclear deal

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to reach New Delhi on Saturday. It is expected that EAM Pranab Mukherjee and she will sign the civil nuclear cooperation agreement, reports V Krishna. Facts of the pact. | Milestones | Indo-US friendship.| Men behind the deal.

world Updated: Oct 03, 2008 01:31 IST
V Krishna
V Krishna
Hindustan Times

After three-and-a-half years of intense negotiations and is-it-dead-or-is-it-alive suspense, the ending was something of an anti-climax.

Even before the roll call began in the US Senate on Wednesday evening, the outcome was clear. Minutes earlier, the senators had summarily rejected an amendment introduced by the non-proliferation advocates. Then the ayes and nays were counted.Indo-US friendship.

The final tally for the US-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act was 86-13, nearly identical to the 85-12 vote for the Hyde Act, the enabling legislation.

The House of Representatives passed the measure on Saturday. All that remains is the signing.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to reach New Delhi on Saturday. It is expected that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and she will sign civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

“I look forward to signing this bill into law and continuing to strengthen the US-India strategic partnership,” US President George W. Bush said in a statement issued after the Senate vote. Men behind the deal.

“This legislation will strengthen our global nuclear nonproliferation efforts, protect the environment, create jobs, and assist India in meeting its growing energy needs in a responsible manner,” Bush added.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as well as Republican candidate John McCain voted in favour of the measure.

“A country that was seen through the lens of technology denial is now part of the nuclear mainstream,” said Dr Anupam Srivastava, director of the Asia programme at the Centre for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia. Facts of the pact.

When the Senate convened in the morning, two Democrats, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, were expected to introduce amendments. But they decided to combine their proposals. “The United States may not export, transfer, or retransfer any nuclear technology, material, equipment or facility under the agreement if the Government of India detonates a nuclear explosive device after the date of the enactment of this act,” the amendment said.

It would require the President to certify to Congress that no American technology, material or equipment supplied under the agreement assisted the test. The President would also have to use export controls against countries that continued nuclear trade with India after the test.

“This agreement is an unbelievable mistake,” Dorgan said. “We are saying to India it is okay if you produce additional nuclear weapons if we cannot see them.”

But Christopher Dodd, acting Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Richard Lugar, its ranking Republican member, said the amendment was unnecessary. They said proliferation concerns had been addressed and oversight strengthened.

“The bill approves more than nuclear cooperation, it approves closer relations with India,” Dodd said.

The vote came just before the Senate acted on a $700-billion-plus financial rescue package. Twelve of the 13 senators who voted against the bill were Democrats, one an independent.

Former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who was a key U.S. negotiator, said, “This is a historic moment for U.S.-India relations, and the civil nuclear deal is in the best interest of both countries.”

Ronen Sen, India’s ambassador to the United States, said, “It’s cause for great satisfaction.”

Indian-American activists who pushed for the deal were delighted. “We saw the result of all the hard work over the last three-and-a-half years,” said Swadesh Chatterjee, chairman of the U.S.-India Friendship Council, which coordinated the lobbying effort. “It’s a great moment,” said Democratic Party veteran Ramesh Kapur. “It’s now time to celebrate,” said Ashok Mago of the US-India Forum.

First Published: Oct 02, 2008 08:04 IST