Thursday, September 25, 2008

Senate panel attaches non-testing document to 123

Senate panel attaches non-testing document to 123

US Govt Asked To Prevent NSG Members From Continuing N-Trade If India Tests

Our Political Bureau NEW DELHI

IN A development that is sure to raise the Opposition’s decibel levels against the nuclear deal, the US Senate foreign relations committee has attached an enabling resolution with the 123 Agreement asking the US to `prevent’ other Nuclear Suppliers Group members from continuing nuclear cooperation with India in the event of a nuclear test. The resolution adopted by the senate foreign relations committee said “ is the policy of the US to seek to prevent the transfer to India of nuclear equipment, materials, or technology from other participating governments in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or from any other source.”

The resolution further said that such a contingency would crop up if nuclear commerce between India and the US is suspended or terminated as per provisions of the Hyde Act, the Atomic Energy Act or any other US law. This basically means that if India were to test or other circumstances were to crop up violating US laws, the US would actively engage other NSG countries to stop nuclear commerce with India.

Even though the contents of the resolution further reveal glaring discrepancies between the American and Indian reading of key issues related to the deal, the government is likely to stick to the stand that the resolution is not part of the 123 Agreement and that India will solely be guided by provisions of the bilateral agreement. But the latest addition to the nuclear deal package is set to create political problems for the government and increase opposition to the nuclear deal.

Another addition to the package is an assertion that the nuclear deal would be subject to provisions of the Hyde Act, Atomic Energy Act and other US laws. Under the Rule of Construction, the bill said that nothing in the agreement shall be construed to supersede the legal requirements of the Hyde Act or the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. This again flies in the face of the government’s repeated assertions that the 123 Agreement supersedes the Hyde Act.

The bill further said that the president shall certify to Congress that the implementation of the agreement is consistent with the obligation of the US under various non-proliferation treaties. It also requires the Congress to urge the Indian government to sign an ‘Additional Protocol’ with IAEA as soon as possible.

As the Bush administration goes about the process of getting Congressional approval, the government has been on the defensive, trying to explain away discrepancies on key issues like fuel supply guarantees and nuclear testing. It started with a US state department note to the house foreign affairs committee that said fuel supplies would stop immediately if India conducts a nuclear test.

This was followed by Mr Bush’s assertions to Congress that fuel supply guarantees were not legally binding on the US and that the 123 Agreement was a political framework agreement and not a legally binding document.