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Indo-US nuclear agreement is up for consideration

Written by: Staff

Washington, June 29 : The Lugar-Biden bill pertaining to the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement which is being taken up for consideration today by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has several sections that allows the Congress to seize an important strategic opportunity, while ensuring a strong Congressional oversight role and reinforcing US non-proliferation efforts.

In his opening statement before moving the bill for consideration Senator Lugar described the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement as ''the most important strategic diplomatic initiative'' undertaken by President Bush.

''By concluding this pact and the far-reaching set of cooperative agreements that accompany it, the President has embraced a long-term outlook that seeks to enhance the core strength of our foreign policy in a way that will give us new diplomatic options and improve global stability, he said in a statement.

''The bill before us is an important step toward implementing the nuclear agreement with India, but we should understand that it is not the final step in the process,'' Mr Lugar added.

The legislation sets the rules for subsequent Congressional consideration of a so-called ''123 Agreement'' between the US and India.

The Lugar-Biden mark gives important authorities to the administration to negotiate with India, but it does not restrict or predetermine Congressional action on the forthcoming 123 Agreement.

Congress will have to approve this subsequent agreement before it goes into force.

Mr Lugar said the Indo-US agreement allows India to receive nuclear fuel, technology, and reactors from the United States - benefits that were previously denied to it because of its status outside the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

''We must ensure that this agreement does not undercut our responsibilities under the NPT. I believe that we can do that.

Moreover, the agreement can be a lasting incentive for India to abstain from further nuclear weapons tests and to cooperate closely with the United States in stopping proliferation,'' he said

''We have already seen strategic benefits from our improving relationship with India. India's votes at the IAEA on the Iran issue last September and this February demonstrate that New Delhi is able and willing to adjust its traditional foreign policies and play a constructive role on international issues,'' Mr Lugar added. The bill before us is an important step toward implementing the nuclear agreement with India, but we should understand that it is not the final step in the process, he said.

The Lugar-Biden mark, unlike the sdministration's original legislative proposal, preserves Congress' prerogatives with regard to the 123 Agreement. Under the administration's original proposal, the 123 Agreement would have entered into force 90 days after submission unless both houses of Congress voted against it and then overcame a likely Presidential veto. I am pleased the Administration changed course on this matter and agreed to submit the 123 Agreement with India to Congress under normal procedures.

This means that both the House and the Senate must cast a positive vote of support before the 123 Agreement can enter into force. In our view, this fully protects Congress' role in the process and ensures Congressional views will be taken into consideration.

''Beyond this key provision, Senator Biden and I have sought to ensure that important export control and non-proliferation efforts remain strong and consistent,'' Mr Lugar said He also mentioned how the Committee has undertaken an extensive review of the India nuclear agreement and has held four public hearings with testimony from 17 witnesses, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice besides classified briefings from Undersecretaries of State Nick Burns and Bob Joseph.


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