US House of Representatives passes India nuclear bill

Saturday, December 9, 2006 File:HouseofRepresentatives.jpg

The chamber of the United States House of Representatives
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

The United States House of Representatives has passed the resolution seeking to implement the US-India Civilian Nuclear Cooperation agreement. The bill was passed with a huge margin in which representatives voted 330 in favour of the agreement and 59 against the agreement.

The resolution, in the 109-page compromise bill, based on high marginal support of the House-Senate conferees, will be sent directly to the US Senate which is also expected to also pass it unanimously by a voice vote today, before the Congress goes into Christmas recess.

The deal offers India US nuclear technology in exchange for inspectors' access to Indian civilian reactors. The accord is hailed as historic by many of the representatives, but critics said that it will damage non-proliferation efforts.

Democratic congressman Tom Lantos said, "India is a state that should be at the very centre of our foreign policy and our attention." He added that a partnership with India would help in regulation of the peaceful and responsible spread of nuclear power.

Represenative from Illinois Henry John Hyde, who is the co-writer of the bill, argued that the conference report, titled "Henty J Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006", is a judicious balance of competing all priorities and accommodates the concerns of administration. He added that President George Bush is expected to sign it into law in a White House ceremony on Monday, if the bill passed by Senate.

Representative from New York Joseph Crowley, who was instrumental in pushing the bill, said, "With the final version of this legislation approved for this historic agreement between India and the United States to move forward, the Congress has provided realistic parameters for the benefit of both our nations. Now the ball falls into the President's and the Indian government's court to move forward, and ensure a positive relation between India and the United States well into this century."

Representative from California Barbara Lee, who is from the Democratic Party, opposed the bill and said that it would lead to problems by way of doing lasting damage to more than 30-years of non-proliferation policies.

The law will allow the nuclear cooperation between India and United States after more than 30 years. After the bill is passed, the Indian government will have to conclude a bilateral agreement with the US government and engage with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). India and the IAEA have already concluded an agreement requiring the application of IAEA safeguards in perpetuity in accordance with IAEA standards, principles, and practices (including IAEA Board of Governors Document GOV/1621 (1973)) to India's civil nuclear facilities, materials, and programs, as discussed in the Section 104 (b) (2) of the bill.

Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who is visiting India, anticipated a very successful and supportive bill. Supporters of the compromise bill, backed by the United States are quite confident that the bill would be acceptable to India.