Boucher hopes n-deal will be done this month

September 12th, 2008 - 11:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 12 (IANS) The Bush administration has expressed the hope that the US Congress will accord its final approval to the India-US civil nuclear deal this month as it has presented a “very strong package” to the legislature.”We have presented a very strong package fully consistent with the requirements that Congress set out,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said at a meeting organised by the US-India Business Alliance Thursday.

“This is where the action is,” he said referring to the fact that it is now up to Congress to get the deal done. “We hope the legislation can be passed.”

“We understand how tight the Congressional calendar is this fall. But we look forward to continuing with Congress on the initiative and we hope the legislation can be passed before Congress adjourns for the year,” he added.

As the Congress is currently scheduled to adjourn Sep 26 to allow members to campaign for the Nov 4 election, the Bush administration is pushing it hard to waive the mandatory 30-day waiting period before it can take up the implementing 123 agreement for a simple yes-no vote without a debate.

Boucher said the agreement enjoyed great support at the Capitol Hill, but it is also likely to generate a fair amount of discussion and a lot of questions in the House.

The event was attended by senior members of the House of Representatives, many of whom said while the clock has started ticking on the 30-day waiting required by the US enabling law, the Hyde Act, there is still no set idea of how lawmakers will overcome the rule.

Democrat Eni Faleomavaega, chairman of the House foreign affairs’ subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, said he would shortly meet House foreign affairs panel chairman Howard Berman “for further discussions”.

Berman supports the deal, but has some reservations about the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver to India for nuclear trade.

Joe Crowley, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he would like to see this move, I share that. It’s high on the agenda even if it goes to the lame duck session. I am confident that we will pass it.”

Another member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ed Royce said: “India today views the US as a reliable, dependable partner. If our actions are to match our rhetoric, if we are truly concerned about our ally in a tough neighbourhood, now is the time to extend this helping hand.”

Democrat Jim McDermott, Chair of the Caucus on India and Indian Americans, struck a more cautious note. “Congress has received a report from the White House and that sets the clock in motion but you can’t expect this to go through like a rifle shot. The chances are fifty-fifty. But if it doesn’t go through now, I will emphasise it doesn’t mean any disrespect for India,” he said.

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