Bush team vows to get n-deal done before Congress adjourns

September 13th, 2008 - 11:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghWashington, Sep 13 (IANS) As the US Congress set the stage for fast-track approval of the India-US civil nuclear deal, the Bush administration vowed to “do everything we can” to ensure its passage before the lawmakers break for elections later this month.”We will do everything we can to ensure that the 123 Agreement is reviewed and approved before the end of this Congressional session, and we look forward to working with Congress to bring the Initiative to fruition,” the State Department said Friday as a key Senate panel set a hearing Sep 18 to review the deal.

America’s third top diplomat, Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns would present the India deal at the Sep 18 hearing of Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

However, the House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Howard Berman is yet to call the meeting of his panel. Berman’s support is crucial as the two foreign affairs panel must recommend the deal’s adoption by the full Congress and how to go about it.

Congress is currently scheduled to adjourn Sep 26, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits the White House at the invitation of President George W. Bush.

“This Initiative establishes a firm foundation for additional non-proliferation and counter-proliferation cooperation, areas we fully intend to advance through the course of our strategic partnership,” the State Department said in a ‘Fact Sheet’.

“There are powerful security, political, economic, and environmental reasons to support this initiative,” it said listing five “significant gains” starting with deepening “our strategic partnership with India - the world’s largest democracy and a rising economic power”.

It enhances energy security by helping India’s large and growing population meet its rising energy needs, helps protect the environment - since nuclear energy presents a cleaner alternative than other available options - and increases trade, creates new jobs and investment opportunities for US companies, it said.

The nuclear deal also welcomes India into the non-proliferation mainstream, the State Department said. “India’s enhanced non-proliferation commitments strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation framework and constitute a net gain for the global non-proliferation regime.”

Congressional approval would be the culmination of an unprecedented three-year effort by the US and India, it said referring to the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement of President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announcing the landmark initiative.

The deal would have the two countries “working together as they have never before - in a way that deepens our strategic partnership and strengthens global non-proliferation principles while providing trade and investment opportunities that will assist India to meet its energy requirements in an environmentally responsible way.

“This Initiative simultaneously provides a process for developing civil nuclear cooperation to help meet India’s growing energy requirements and strengthens the non-proliferation regime by welcoming India into internationally accepted non-proliferation standards and practices,” the State Department said.

“We believe the 123 Agreement package is consistent with the requirements Congress set out with strong bipartisan support in its passage of the Hyde Act in 2006, and we look forward to continuing our work with Congress to bring the agreement into force,” it said.

“With approval of the safeguards agreement by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group exception now agreed, two of three key steps have been accomplished in bringing civil nuclear cooperation to fruition.

“The locus of the initiative has now shifted from Vienna and New Delhi to Washington for the third and final step - approval by the US Congress,” the State Department noted.

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