Washington, Sept 24 : A US Senate panel has reportedly cleared the Indo-US Nuke deal with an overwhelming 19-2 vote. This has been described as a key hurdle cleared in the US ahead of the finalization of the deal, much awaited in India as the US goes to Presidential poll in November.
The brief hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday included just one amendment. A proposal by Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, to toughen restrictions on selling India the technology to reprocess nuclear fuel was defeated on a 15-4 vote.
But, even after clearing the deal, the supporters of the deal in the Committee expressed doubts about whether there was still time left for the US Congress to finally pass it before the planned adjournment at the end of the week, reported the Washington Times.
"It's a very important milestone in the relations between two great democracies. At least for this committee, it is progress that we have moved this issue off the table," said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who chaired the afternoon hearing in place of the absent Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.
But, according to the paper, the nonproliferation activists were sharply critical of the vote, which clears the way for massive American contracts to India's civilian nuclear industry even though India has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Critics said the deal will "allow India to expand its military nuclear programs and will undermine efforts to get other countries to limit their nuclear ambitions".
"This is no way to change 30 years of international nonproliferation policy. This is a shameful way for the committee to perform," said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Washington-based Armed Control Association, after the committee vote.
The Bush administration, which sees the nuclear deal as the "centerpiece of a new strategic alliance" with one of the world's emerging economic and military powers, pushed hard for India to be exempted from supply and cooperation bans called for by the nonproliferation treaty.