Congressional approval may not be automatic; dissenters speak out

September 7th, 2008 - 11:05 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 7 (IANS) Howard L. Berman, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has said he wants to be sure the Bush administration did not cut any side deals with members of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) in order to get their votes in favour of the Indian waiver. Berman told the New York Times that he would not consider any expedited timetable for considering the agreement until the Bush administration provides him with more information about the negotiations with the NSG in Vienna.

Berman said that he wants to check that the Bush administration did not cut any side deals with NSG member countries to get their votes. He wants to ensure, for instance, that the US did not say those countries could sell nuclear technology to India that the US is currently prohibited from selling, according to the Times.

Ultimately, he was quoted as saying, the burden was on the White House to convince Congress why the nuclear pact needed to be authorised in such a “rushed” fashion.

It was Berman who this week tried to muddy the waters for the deal by releasing a so-called “secret letter” from the State Department saying the US had the right to immediately stop nuclear trade with India if it conducted an atomic test.

Another key opponent of the deal, Edward J. Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-chairman of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Non-proliferation, said there needs to be clear consequences if India breaks its commitments or resumes nuclear testing.

“The US Congress must still vote to approve this agreement, and no one should assume congressional approval will be automatic,” he said in a statement. “Congress should stand by the Hyde Act and take all the time necessary to dissect the details of this agreement before any vote is scheduled ”

Accusing the Bush administration of managing to “strong-arm” the NSG into skirting normal rules governing international nuclear trade, he stated:

“This agreement effectively blows a hole in the global non-proliferation regime, setting a dangerous precedent.

“What kind of lesson does it send to countries like Pakistan, Iran and North Korea, when we skirt the rules for our friends, but insist on strict compliance for them?” Markey asked.

“The nuclear supplier nations cannot preach nuclear temperance from a barstool, and the India nuclear deal is going to undermine the credibility of international efforts to prevent the further spread of the bomb,” he said.

Another non-proliferation hawk, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association think tank, which lobbied hard against the NSG waiver, said: “While we believe this is, in the big picture, an unmitigated non-proliferation disaster, it is still not the clear and unconditional exemption India was demanding.”

But ACA and its allies and supporters “will work to ensure that the current Congressional requirements and expectations regarding US nuclear trade are fully addressed and that additional measures are taken to ensure that other nuclear suppliers do not undercut the minimal but vital restrictions, requirements, and conditions on nuclear trade mandated by Congress,” he said.

On the other hand eyeing a 100 billion dollar business, the US-India Business Council (USIBC) representing 300 of the largest US companies investing in India, has vowed to work for Congressional ratification of the deal to “clear the way for US companies to participate in India’s nuclear renaissance.”

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