Amit Baruah

House committee discusses Bill

Senior officials say India bound by July 18, 2005 joint statement Senate Foreign Relations Committee will take up Bill on Wednesday

NEW DELHI: If India is to conduct a nuclear test, the civilian nuclear cooperation with the United States will end, according to a key clause in a Bill that is being considered on Tuesday by the House of Representatives' International Relations Committee.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will take up the Bill, "United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006," on Wednesday. The Bill says a Presidential waiver will "cease to be effective" if India detonates a nuclear device.

Senior officials say this formulation is purely American: India is only bound by the commitment contained in the July 18, 2005 joint statement that New Delhi will continue its moratorium on nuclear testing.

The officials concede that India is not comfortable with the language in the Bill but felt that operative amendments to the U.S. law that will allow for civilian nuclear cooperation are more important.

Under `Statements of Policy' (Section 3), the Bill makes a specific reference to securing India's "full and active participation" in the U.S. efforts to "dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain" Iran for its efforts to "acquire weapons of mass destruction."

While permitting conditional cooperation with India, the Bill calls for submission to Congress of a report by the U.S. President. It should contain a "description of steps" taken to "encourage India to identify and declare a date" by which it will unilaterally end fissile material production.

"Implications"

The officials, pointing out that there could be more amendments to the draft Bill, feel that there will be "implications" for bilateral relations, if the Bill fails to clear Congress.

After approval by the House and Senate Committees, the Bill will go to the full House and Senate for separate votes.

The U.S. President is required to submit an annual report by January 31 every year, containing an estimate of the uranium mined in India for the previous year, the amount of such uranium used or allocated for making nuclear devices, the rate of production of fissile material and "an analysis" as to whether "imported uranium" has affected "such rate" of producing devices.

The Bill holds that notwithstanding the entry into force of an agreement for civilian cooperation, "no item subject to such agreement or subject to the transfer guidelines of the NSG [Nuclear Suppliers Group] may be transferred to India if such transfer would violate the NSG's transfer guidelines as in effect on the date of the transfer."

More In: Today's Paper