Bush signs nuke Bill
19th Dec.2006. WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush on Monday morning signed into law a Bill that overturns over three decades of US policy by permitting civilian nuclear cooperation with India.
Mr Bush signed the Henry
J. Hyde United States-India Atomic Energy Peaceful Cooperation Act of 2006,
in the East Room of the White House in the presence of a handful of members
of the Congress, representatives of the US business community, Indian Americans
and members of a cross-section of American think tanks, all of whom toiled
hard to make this day possible.
Striding briskly into a colourfully decorated White House East Room at 10.45 am, the president told an excited and partisan audience of supporters that nuclear cooperation would strengthen the partnership between the two largest democracies, aside from other benefits in terms of energy and environment.
"The relationship between the United States and India has never been more vital," Bush said in a 10-minute address that dealt primarily with the big geo-strategic implications of the deal, as against the the nuclear-specific grounds on which critics have opposed the deal.
Bush used former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's expression of India and the US being "natural partners" to stress that "rivalries that once kept our nations apart are no more". But Bush also provided ammo for critics of the deal in India by tagging a non-proliferation angle to what was primarily intended to be a nuclear energy deal. The Bill the President signed into law, Mr Andersen noted, “is an American Bill, not an Indian Bill. Once the 123 Agreement comes into the picture that’s when the Indians will have to be concerned about what is in the agreement.”
US negotiators earlier this
month left a draft of the 123 Agreement with the Indian Government and
Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said last week the Bush administration
was waiting to hear back from New Delhi.
"The bill will help keep America safe by paving the way for India to join the global effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons," he said. The White House East Room was festooned with Christmas decorations and Indian and American flags as Bush took the podium, flanked by a Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington and Martha Washington.
More than 100 eminences grises, including secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, her deputy Nicholas Burns, key lawmakers, diplomats, analysts, and members of the Indian-American community attended the signing ceremony in a room where it is said First Lady Dolly Madison once hung her laundry.
First Daughter Amy Carter roller-skated here and Carolyn Kennedy rode her pony macaroni, White House staff recollected as the gathering waited for the president to arrive. The conversation provided appropriate metaphors for a deal that seems far from finished even though Bush has signed the United States Bill into law. There are still some slippery areas ahead and critics from both sides will be hanging out plenty of dirty laundry in the days to come.
Bush himself indicated that it was still a work in progress, describing the bill signing as "one of the most important steps," which is "going to help clear the way for us to move forward with this process."
That process will include
a yet to be signed bilateral agreement called the 123 Agreement, and the
joke among hacks was that it would be followed by the 456 and 789 agreements.
Still, there was a sense of accomplishment on both sides at what has been
achieved so far. Perhaps reflective and symbolic of the warming relationship
between the two countries, it was also an an unusually warm day in Washington
for winter (25ºC).A joint effort by Indian Americans, the US-India
Business Council and the Indian Government’s lobbyists in Washington helped
turn the tide in the deal’s favour.
NEW DELHI, December 9:Despite
the habitual carping from the political margins here against the historic
legislation on nuclear cooperation with India approved by the US Congress
today, the Government is quietly savouring a very special moment for Indian
diplomacy. For the 109th US Congress, in its very dying moments, not only
freed India from three and a half decades of nuclear bondage, but also
met two of India’s very important strategic objectives — breaking the nuclear
parity with Pakistan and establishing strategic equivalence with China.
Under the NPT, India was
neither a “nuclear fish” nor a “non-nuclear” fowl. As the NPT regime steadily
tightened the restrictions on nuclear technology transfers to non-member
states, India’s discomfort became an unbearable burden. The NPT regime
insisted that India could either have nuclear weapons or civil nuclear
energy cooperation. The US Congress finally bought into the Bush Administration’s
argument that India should have both.
Having seen the tactic once, the Centre is in no mood to countenance the attempt to mar a long awaited national triumph. In ideal circumstances, the BJP would have been expected to take credit for laying the ground work for the nuclear deal with the US and later consummated by the Congress government.
If the BJP seeks to embarrass the government in the Parliament on Monday, Singh and the External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee have the option of revealing the truth on BJP’s negotiating record with the US.
After all, it is well known that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had offered to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in return for civilian nuclear energy cooperation. In an account of his talks with the Vajpayee government, President Bill Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott says he angrily dismissed the Indian offer.
Having won where Vajpayee lost, Singh is unlikely to suffer BJP’s criticism in the Parliament on Monday. The Communist record is worse.
The CPI(M) had supported
the Chinese nuclear programme and opposed the Indian tests. Those within
the Government, who have sought to wreck India’s historic nuclear achievement
by playing fast and loose with the political authority of the Prime Minister
and the Cabinet, might find the going rather tough this time around. For
the political stakes in India’s nuclear liberation have become so very
Nuke Bill Approved by
85-12 Votes : Nuclear Deal and more
En route to the landmark legislation, the Senate also rejected by big margins several "killer amendments" to the US-India Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Bill pressed for by non-proliferation hardliners.
These amendments sought, among other constraints, to cap India's nuclear weapons and restrict its ties with Iran, neither of which was acceptable to New Delhi.
At the end of the day, after nearly ten hours of grueling debate, lawmakers by and large approved the legislation as written by Senators Richard Lugar (Indiana Republican) and Joseph Biden (Delaware Democrat).
The matter now moves to a conference of the Senate and the House (which had earlier passed its version of the bill by a 359-68 margin) where the two bills will be reconciled to arrive at a common bill to be sent to the President for signature, after which it becomes law.
Those steps are expected to take place before the lame-duck session ends in December to pave way for the new Democrat-majority Congress in January.
President Bush, who is away in Singapore, lauded the Senate action within minutes of the passage of the bill.
"The United States and India enjoy a strategic partnership based upon common values. Today, the Senate has acted to further strengthen this relationship by passing legislation that will deliver energy, nonproliferation, and trade benefits to the citizens of two great democracies," Bush said in a statement from Singapore.
Calling the agreement a "victory" for bilateral relations, Democrat
Joseph Biden, who will take over as head of the Foreign Relations Committee,
said, "...the Senate is engaged in a truly historic process. When we pass
this bill, America will be a giant step closer to approving a major shift
in US-Indian relations."
Republican and Democratic senators came together to decisively vote 73-26 against an amendment brought to the floor by New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman which would have required the President to determine that India committed to a cap on its fissile material production before Washington could proceed with nuclear exports to India.
The administration had said such an amendment would be a deal-killer because India would not agree to the condition considering the geopolitical realities and the neighborhood it lived in, a reference to China and Pakistan. A majority of Senators agreed with this assessment.
While most Republicans voted against the Bingaman deal-killer amendment and kept the deal alive, several prominent Democrats joined them in support – among them Senators John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Paul Sarbanes and Joe Lieberman.
Another amendment moved by California Senator Barbara Boxer seeking to restrict India's ties with Iran came a little closer to success, going down 38-59. Boxer's colleague Biden countered that trying to legislate India's ties with Iran could justifiably lead to questions about U.S ties with jihadist Pakistan.
While Boxer's sentiments were understandable, each country acted in its own self-interest, Biden argued, even as another Senator, Missouri's Kit Bond, asked how US would react if countries questioned its ties with Israel.
The non-proliferation constituency that supported amendments that could have killed the deal included Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy, California's two Democrat Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez, and Illinois Democrat Barack Obama.
Ironically, they came from states which have the greatest concentration of Indian-Americans.
All of them paid lip service
to their Indian-American constituents and the need for better ties with
India, but steeped in non-proliferation theology, they refused to acknowledge
the civilian nuclear energy component that is central to the agreement.Defeated
Republican Senator George Allen argued this was a deal that had been "properly
crafted" and urged his colleagues to examine it in "totality".
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