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US-India N-deal yet to get Congressional approval

Written by: Staff

Washington, Apr 3: The US-India civilian nuclear deal, seeking Congressional approval in the President Bush administration, has almost been cold-shouldered by some lawmakers, many of whom feel more amendments need to be incorporated before being ratified.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, some of the amendments that the Congress might seek, is to get assurances that India would vigorously enforce its export controls on nuclear technology.

But India, which is building a nuclear arsenal in part as protection against China, has signaled that an attempt to impose such limits ''would be a deal breaker,'' the Times report said.

If Congress doesn't act before the summer recess, the administration could face a tougher challenge because of the difficulty of pushing through such a controversial agreement just before a mid-term congressional election. Then the deal, which aides consider one of the most important accomplishments of the Bush presidency, could be put on hold until next year, the Times said.

The paper quoted an anonymous Republican House staff member to say that ''It may be going too far to say there's panic within the administration, but I think there's deep concern that the nuke deal hasn't been received nearly as well as hoped.'' The legislation before Congress seeks to exempt India from US laws that prohibit providing nuclear technology to countries like India that have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In return for such help, India would agree to allow international inspections of its civilian reactors, though its military weapons program would remain unmonitored.

To provide India with nuclear knowledge, the US must also win approval of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, that controls global trade in nuclear technology and equipment.

But in a meeting last weekend, the India proposal drew questions from representatives of many of the countries, and the administration failed to win permission to put the deal on the agenda for the group's May meeting, as it had hoped to do.

President Bush contends that by selling nuclear reactors to India, the program would ease competition for oil, help the environment and provide important new US commercial ties.

Administration officials also want to foster a better relationship with India because they believe it can be a strategic counterweight to China.

The administration was finding support for the deal on Capitol Hill and from countries such as Britain, Russia, France and Australia, The LA Times reported quoting an official of the State Department.


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