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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bush promises to get India-US nuke deal

International News Headlines On November 9th 2006, US President George W Bush resolved to get Congressional approval for the India-US civilian nuclear agreement, which awaits the Senate's endorsement, notwithstanding the electoral reverses suffered by the Republican Party.
Addressing a press conference at the White House yesterday after the big Democrat victory, Mr Bush, however, said he was not certain whether the deal would figure in the agenda of the session of the outgoing Senate.

The House of Representatives had approved the measure in July last with certain amendments.
Though there is a strong lobby against the deal in the United States as in India for different reasons, according to observers, the House of Representatives' new composition would not have any effect on it.

An overwhelming majority of the members in the two houses of the Congress will still remain the same. For example, the 100-member Senate will have only six new faces, even if the withheld result of the disputed Virginia state goes in favour of the Democratic Party. Mr Biden, who was first elected to the United States Senate in 1972 at the age of 29, is recognised as one of the country's most powerful and influential voices on foreign relations.
Similarly, Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos of California is likely to chair the new House Committee on International Relations in place of Republican Party's Henry Hyde.

Mr Lantos too is an ardent supporter of the agreement. In fact, in May, he favoured a legislative compromise to ''keep the momentum for this important agreement moving forward.'' He had gone on record to say that ''the Indian Government needs reassurance that the Congress is supportive. It needs the confidence that we will adopt the necessary legislation in order to negotiate the final details of this agreement with the United States.'' His draft legislation emphasises the importance of deepening India-US bilateral relationship and welcomes the India-US Joint Statement of July 18, 2006, as well as the agreement reached on March 2, 2006 to expand peaceful nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

Therefore, the Congress changing hands is hardly going to have any impact on the fate of the agreement. What matters most is the timing of its figuring on the Senate agenda and whether the amendments that are likely to be tagged on to the agreement, would be acceptable to India.
A clearer picture would emerge when the outgoing Senate returns for its lame duck session next week.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Partnership with India, a support group, in a statement recognised that many legislative initiatives might be affected by the change in the structure of the Congress, ''We are optimistic that the India bill will weather the shift in political climate.'' It recalls that Democratic leader in the present Senate Harry Reid and its majority leader Bill Frist (Republican) have each stated publicly their desire to pass the agreement during the lame duck session.

It said the broad, bipartisan support for the measure is evidenced by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's 16-2 vote to approve it. When the bill comes to the Senate floor, most experts believe it will win by a margin similar to the landslide House vote of 359-68, it said.

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