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Saran meets with some key lawmakers

Written by: Staff

Washington, Mar 31 (UNI) Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran met with several US Congressmen and Senators in a bid to alleviate their concerns regarding the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation.

He is understood to have told them that the deal was in the best interests of both India and the United States.

Mr Saran spent considerable time in Capitol Hill yesterday to garner support for the civil nuclear deal, explaining India's commitment to adhere to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) guidelines even though it has not signed it.

He is understood to have spoken about India's voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing and willingness to sign a multilateral fissile materials cut-off treaty whenever it was ready.

Mr Saran is here on a two-day visit for ongoing discussions with US officials on the landmark agreement that will allow India to get nuclear technology, equipment and power reactors from the United States and members of the Nuclear suppliers Group (NSG).

But the civilian nuclear deal has to be ratified by the US Congress before it can become effective and the support of the lawmakers is crucial to ensure the passage of the bill.

During his meeting with Mr Gary Ackerman, Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, the Foreign Secretary thanked him for his support to the agreement.

He also reiterated the Indian view that the deal is only one aspect of the much broader relationship between the two democracies.

Mr Ackerman noted that members of Congress should consider the context of the US-India relationship when considering the agreement, but emphasised that many lawmakers bring their own context to the discussion of the issue.

He also told Mr Saran that much work still needs to be done for the agreement to be approved by the House and the Senate.

Mr Ackerman supports the agreement but has criticised President George W Bush for doing a terrible job in selling it to members of Congress and explaining it to the American people.

However Mr Saran's meeting with ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, Tom Lantos, was not all that smooth, according to Congressional sources.

Mr Lantos reportedly told Mr Saran that India's training of Iranian troops could undermine the deal in the US Congress.

Mr Lantos expressed concern over New Delhi's training of the Iranian navy and questioned the military cooperation between the two countries at a time when the US was involved in mustering international support for reining in Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Mr Saran is also believed to have met Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking member in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Mr Joe Wilson, Republican from South Carolina who backs the agreement.

Legislation seeking an exemption for India under US laws, introduced by the Bush administration earlier this month, is pending before the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Though no one in the Senate has opposed the proposed legislation, there are 18 members of the House who have expressed opposition by tabling a co-sponsored resolution against the nuclear agreement. Ten out of these eighteen are members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.


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