‘Hyde Act will remain even under next US presidency’

June 10th, 2008 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

By Pranay Sharma
New Delhi, June 10 (IANS) The controversial Hyde Act that has become the “centrepiece” in the Indo-US nuclear deal would remain even if Democrat candidate, Barack Obama or Republican nominee John McCain, becomes the next president of America, George Perkovich, internationally renowned non-proliferation expert said here Tuesday. “What has been agreed upon has bi-partisan support. I don’t see them undoing the Hyde Act,” Perkovich told IANS.

He pointed out that it was unlikely that either of the two candidates, if they become the next president of the US, would be able to tamper with any major sections of the proposed deal that India and the US wants to sign to begin commerce in civilian nuclear energy.

Perkovich is vice president for studies on global security and economic development and director of the non-proliferation programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. But in India, he is better known for his 1999 book, ‘India’s Nuclear Bomb: the impact on global non-proliferation.’

At present, he also oversees the South Asia Project and the trade, equity, and development program at the endowment.

He was here to attend the two-day international conference on disarmament organized by some of the government-funded think tanks to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi’s “Action Plan.”

In an informal, freewheeling conversation with IANS, Perkovich said, “The bipartisan support, hearings and debates that produced the Hyde Act has now become the framework for the proposed agreement.”

The Congress-led UPA government has so far not been able to go ahead with signing the deal mainly because its main ally, the Left parties are opposed to the provisions of the Hyde Act, which they claim curtail India’s “sovereignty.”

The main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that had laid the groundwork for the proposed nuclear deal, is also opposed to it now as it also feels the controversial Act prevents India from conducting future nuclear tests.

“I don’t see any government in India conducting a test on its own. If at all it does, it will be in the context of whether China or some other country conducts a test. And then the entire equation changes,” Perkovich said.

Asked whether non-proliferation lobbies that are believed to be strong supporters of the Democrats would pressurize Barack Obama if he becomes the president to bring in harsher provisions in the 123 agreement that India and the US propose to sign for implementing cooperation on civil nuclear energy, Perkovich felt such a possibility was unlikely.

“It had a bipartisan support and the possibility of opening it up to get in fresh provisions seems very unlikely.”

Perkovich put forward a number of reasons that would make it difficult for the next US president to re-open the deal. He cited India’s growing attraction to US companies and business interests as a trade and investment destination along with the increasing influence of the “rich and powerful” Indian-American community in the US as some of the key factors that would prevent such a possibility.

“It is not only about the nuclear deal, it is also about building good and strong relations with India that will be important for whoever becomes the next president of the US,” Perkovich said.

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