Thursday, October 2, 2008
With the United States Senate beginning a debate on a legislation that will give its stamp of approval to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to reassure opponents of the deal, saying that a nuclear test by India would result in “most serious consequences.”
Ms. Rice wrote a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go through with the process without amendments.
“We have an unprecedented and historic opportunity before us to help shape the 21st century for the better. With this legislation in its current form, the Senate can help ensure that the United States and India complete the journey we began together three years ago. You can also help ensure that U.S. industry — just like its international counterparts — is able to engage with India in civil nuclear trade,” Ms. Rice said.
Ms. Rice said the nuclear deal marked the culmination of a decade-long process. Two successive administrations had sought to improve U.S.-India relations and adapt American policy to India’s emergence on the international stage. “For the United States, passage of this legislation will clear the way to deepen our strategic relationship with India, open significant opportunities for American firms, help meet India’s surging energy requirements in an environmentally friendly manner, and bring India into the global nuclear non-proliferation mainstream,” Ms. Rice said. Urging him to pass the Bill cleared by the House without any amendment, she said the current bill advanced U.S.-India relationship while enhancing non-proliferation efforts worldwide.
“Amendments would unnecessarily jeopardise the careful progress we have achieved with India at a time when I believe it is important for us to seize the significant momentum we have created in the U.S.-India relationship,” Ms. Rice said.
Earlier, kicking off the debate, acting Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Christopher Dodd said: “I rise to urge passage of this bill, approving the U.S.-India peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement. This past Saturday the House of Representatives passed this bill by a margin of 298-116, a resounding vote in support for this agreement.”
Democrat Senator Chris Dodd and Republican Senator Richard Lugar called for the approval of the legislation stressing that considerable amount of work had gone into the process, including in ensuring Congressional oversights. “... this is one of the most important strategic diplomatic initiatives undertaken in the last occasion. By concluding this pact, the United States has embraced a long-term outlook that will give us new diplomatic options and improve global stability,” Mr. Lugar said.
“It’s an opportunity to build a strategic partnership with a nation — India — that shares our democratic values and which exerts increasing influence on the world stage … Unfortunately, domestic divisions in India led to a delay of almost two years,” Mr. Lugar said.
Two major critics of the current pending legislation in the Senate hammered away at the present accord on different grounds, primarily on non-proliferation basis as also maintaining that it sends a wrong signal to other nuclear states such as Pakistan and Iran. North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan and Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico flayed the legislation and treaty, with the former arguing that this agreement with India “marches in exactly the wrong direction.” He called the legislation a “horrible mistake” and said it sent a wrong message, and flayed the administration and Congress for rushing it through.
“Never in my life has such a large issue been given such a short shrift,” Mr. Dorgan said before spelling out the framework of a single amendment that sought to not only place curbs on nuclear trade but also sought export controls in the event of India testing a nuclear weapon ... our job is to provide the leadership in this world to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.
“You can build a nuclear arsenal in defiance of the United Nations resolutions and international sanctions; and after testing, 10 years later, all will be forgiven and you will be welcome into the club of nuclear powers without ever having signed the non-proliferation treaty,” he added.
“India would have unlimited ability to import fuel for 14 civilian power plants under this agreement. That’s what they want to produce additional nuclear power ... India can have eight other power reactors that we cannot see and they can divert their entire fuel supply to produce additional nuclear weapons. “So what does that mean, our agreeing that India, that has never signed the non-proliferation treaty, has tested nuclear weapons and developed nuclear weapons in secret using our technology is now given an agreement that allows them to build more nuclear weapons?” Mr. Dorgan asked.
Senator Jeff Bingaman slammed the administration and admonished his colleagues for going through with this agreement with India on non-proliferation grounds. “I do believe it’s time that we as a nation did more to reach out to India in areas such as energy and high technology. The President deserves credit for recognising that the India of the 1960s and 1970s is not the India of today. India is a great leader in technology, and needs to be an ally of our country on many issues,” he said.
“But I cannot support the proposed agreement before us today in the form we are being presented. By modifying our non-proliferation laws for India and just for India and in a circumstance where India has not signed the non-proliferation treaty, not only are we sending the wrong signal to Iran, which is a signatory and desires to have its own nuclear programme, but we’re also sending the wrong signal to North Korea, to Pakistan, to Israel. “Those three countries are not signatories to the non-proliferation treaty, and they have detonated nuclear weapons,” Mr. Bingaman said.
“Approval of the agreement as it’s now presented makes it difficult for us to justify our non-proliferation policies to the world at large, and in particular it makes it very difficult for us to justify them to other non- proliferation treaty signatories, such as South Africa and Brazil and Taiwan, that have foresworn their nuclear weapons programs as part of signing up for the non-proliferation treaty,” Mr. Bingaman said.