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Published:November 19th, 2006 08:11 EST
Bush Welcomes U.S.-India Nuclear Agreement

Bush Welcomes U.S.-India Nuclear Agreement

By SOP newswire

Washington -- The White House welcomed the Senate’s approval of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation agreement, signed earlier this year by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“The United States and India enjoy a strategic partnership based upon common values,” Bush said November 16.  “Today, the Senate has acted to further strengthen this relationship by passing legislation that will deliver energy, nonproliferation and trade benefits to the citizens of two great democracies.”

The U.S. Senate approved the agreement by a vote of 85-12 on November 16.  Previously, the House of Representatives approved a similar measure in July by a vote of 359-68.  Differences between the two measures will have to be resolved before the president can sign it into law.

U.S. Ambassador to India David C. Mulford hailed the vote as “an historic day in the long relationship between the United States and India, perhaps the best day ever between the two countries.”

U.S.-INDIA AGREEMENT KEY TO NEW STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

Helping India to reconcile nuclear proliferation concerns with its desire to build a civil nuclear energy program as a nonpolluting alternative to its expanding economy’s increasing dependence on fossil fuels has been a top foreign policy priority for the Bush administration.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that implementation of the civil nuclear agreement represents “a key element of a new strategic partnership between the United States and India.”  (See related article.)

India’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) long has made New Delhi’s nuclear program controversial.  The country first tested nuclear weapons in 1974, which led to a U.S. ban on nuclear exports to India.  Following India’s 1998 nuclear weapons test, the United States imposed additional punitive sanctions.

But in 2005, negotiations culminated in Bush and Singh’s March 2006 signing of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation agreement in New Delhi.  Under the agreement, the United States would end decades of restrictions on sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components to India, in exchange for India agreeing to open its 14 civilian nuclear reactors to international inspections. (See related article.)

The agreement, which reverses previous U.S. policy barring nuclear exports to New Delhi, “will bring India into the international nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and will increase the transparency of India's entire civilian nuclear program,” Bush said.

The civil nuclear agreement, Mulford said, also represents “President Bush's vision to assist India in emerging as a world power by removing the isolation that India has been living under for the past 30-plus years in this important area, and to permit India to develop.”  (See related article.)

An added benefit, the president said, is that the agreement will deepen commercial relations between the two countries.

SEVERAL STEPS REMAIN BEFORE DEAL’S COMPLETION

The vote came after several hours of debate in which senators rejected efforts to add amendments that significantly would have changed the agreement.  Some senators expressed concern about the agreement’s provisions that allow India to designate eight of its nuclear reactors as military facilities, removing them from international oversight and posing a potential proliferation risk.

But Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican and a leading figure in nuclear nonproliferation policy, praised the agreement as “one more important step toward a vibrant and exciting relationship between our two great democracies.”

Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, the Democrat who will head the committee come January, called the vote “a giant step closer to approving a major shift in U.S.-Indian relations,” which “will increase the prospect for stability and progress in South Asia and in the world at large.”  (See related article.)

Now that both houses of Congress have adopted legislation revising legal restrictions against nuclear commerce with India, representatives from each chamber will meet to reconcile any differences.  Subsequently, the United States and India must negotiate a “123 agreement” finalizing the details of the cooperation agreement.  The 123 agreement also must be approved by Congress for the nuclear cooperation to take effect.

In addition, India must reach a safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency for its civil nuclear facilities.

The full text of the president’s statement is available from the White House Web site.

Secretary Rice’s statement is available from the State Department Web Site.

A transcript of Ambassador Mulford’s press briefing is available from the U.S. Embassy to India Web site.

For more information, see U.S.-India Partnership, South and Central Asia, and Arms Control and Nonproliferation.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Source:DoS