"Amendments will kill the deal if they are included in the final legislation"
Agreement was the result of a ``delicately balanced negotiation'' The Senate is engaged in a truly historic process, says Biden
WASHINGTON: As the United States Senate began discussing the bill on civilian nuclear deal with India on Thursday, Senator Richard Lugar urged his colleagues to approve the legislation.
"It is an opportunity to build a vital strategic partnership with India, a country that not only shares America's democratic values, but one that will exert increasing influence on the world stage," he said.
"We have constructed a bill that allows the U.S. to seize an important strategic opportunity, while ensuring a strong Congressional oversight role, reinforcing the U.S. non- proliferation efforts and maintaining our responsibilities under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),'' Mr. Lugar said.
``The U.S. and India have engaged in initial discussions on a multi-lateral Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), to be negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament. We should press for rapid progress in that context.''
The India-U.S. agreement was the result of a ``delicately balanced negotiation'' and ``neither side got everything it wanted.''
Mr. Lugar reminded the Senate that during the Foreign Relations Committee's mark-up, it rejected an amendment that said the President would have to determine with absolute certainty that no U.S. nuclear fuel exports to India could increase its production of fissile materials for weapons.
``New Delhi would rightly see this as moving the goalposts an unacceptable unilateral alteration of the pact,'' he said, adding such amendments would ``kill'' the nuclear deal if they were included in the final legislation.
At the start of the session, both Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid expressed the confidence that the House would take a stand on the bill either on Thursday or Friday.
``I think it is so important to do whatever we can to pass this nuclear agreement that has been negotiated with India,'' Mr. Reid said. ``I am hopeful we can finish it today, tonight or tomorrow. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to.''
Calling the agreement a ``victory'' for bilateral relations, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph Biden warned his colleagues that they cannot ``let the perfect be the enemy of the good'' in that every time the Senate was presented with a treaty, the feeling somehow came about that the administration could have done better.
''... the Senate is engaged in a truly historic process. When we pass this bill, America will be a giant step closer to approving a major shift in the U.S.-India relations. If we are right, this shift will increase the prospect for stability and progress in South Asia and in the world at large,'' Mr. Biden said while opening his comments on the floor of the Senate.
``The Committee on Foreign Relations has worked to move this project forward, while safeguarding the role of Congress and minimising any harm to nuclear non-proliferation policies and institutions. I urge my colleagues to support this bill,'' he said.
``The Administration has repeatedly said this is an India nuclear deal, not intended to permit nuclear commerce with Pakistan or Israel. The Committee's bill incorporates that distinction by requiring the President to certify that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) decision does not permit nuclear commerce with any other State that does not accept full-scope safeguards,'' the senior Democrat assured his colleagues.
He said: ``Because Section 106 of the bill makes this a legal requirement, we also added two exemptions. One would be for a programme like the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which is to develop a new generation of proliferation-resistant nuclear facilities.
``The other would be for a facility in an IAEA-approved programme to provide alternatives to national fuel cycle capabilities. For example, there might some day be a South Asian regional uranium enrichment facility under the IAEA auspices.''
``Section 107 requires a programme to maintain accountability with respect to nuclear materials, equipment, and technology sold, leased and exported, or re-exported to India. This programme would include end-use monitoring conditions, as appropriate. ``
Democratic Senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan, a long-time critic of the nuclear agreement, said he came to the Senate floor ``with a different view.'' He said approving the agreement would witness the ``beginning down of a troublesome road.'' PTI