Washington, Sep 28: On Saturday, Sep 27 the US House of Representatives passed with an overwhelming majority the highly anticipated Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal, ending a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with India.
The House passed the bill by 298-117 with a bipartisan backing. It now awaits the approval by the full Senate. Its passage by both Houses of the US Congress is a prerequisite for its implementation. Once signed into law, the two countries will have completed a process begun in July 2005.
While there was bi-partisan support for the Bill, a considerable number of Democrats voted against the Bill moved by party colleague Howard Berman, an opponent of the measure who was persuaded to change his line. While House Republicans voted 178-10, the widely split Democrats — who control the US Senate — voted 120-107.
US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, "Saturday's approval by the House of the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement furthers our countries' strategic relationship, while balancing nuclear non-proliferation concerns and India's growing energy needs.
She said, ''the legislation recognizes India's past support for non-proliferation initiatives and strengthens congressional oversight of any future US decision to assist India's civilian nuclear program.'' Speaker Pelosi made it a point to remark that passage of the legislation ''endorses recent decisions by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to make India a formal part of the global non-proliferation regime, and reflects a judgment by the international community that India can be an increasingly effective partner on this crucial issue in the years to come.'' However, the opponents of the bill, most of whom were Democrats, harped on the fact that India had not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and thus, not entitle to the nuclear technology and fuel which the accord seeks to provide.
The sanctions were slapped on India after it had tested its first nuclear device in 1974.
The last hurdle to the Indo-US Nuclear deal was the approval of US Congress. Once the Senate adopts the Bill, it would be ready for signing between the two countries. Already Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has planned a trip to Delhi on Oct 3 when she may ink the agreement with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, a feat that Singh and Bush could not achieve on Friday, Sep 26.