India-US in last nuclear push
PM Manmohan Singh has described the nuclear deal as “momentous”
Indian PM Manmohan Singh is due to
meet US President George Bush amid frantic efforts to win US
Congressional support for the two countries’ nuclear deal.
The controversial accord needs to be pushed through Congress
before lawmakers conclude this year’s session to campaign for
Correspondents say its ratification will be a complicated process.
US officials hope Congress will approve the deal before the leaders meet later on Thursday in Washington, reports say.
Congress is due to go into recess at the end of this week.
Time running out
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the bill on
Tuesday, but there are still several steps to be taken before it can be
passed and signed.
The bill has not so far been presented on the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives.
The deal would give India access to US civilian nuclear technology
Last-minute attempts to ratify the bill have been made more
complicated because it was presented late to Congress, which is also
debating a critical $700bn bank bailout plan, in addition to numerous
other important measures before it shuts down for the year.
Correspondents say that the Bush administration needs the help
of the Democrats – who control both houses of Congress – to over-ride a
law that says Congress must wait 30 working days after receiving a bill
before it can ratify it.
The House and the Senate must pass and send identical bills to
President Bush for the deal to go through before a new administration
takes office in January.
The Bush administration submitted the deal to Congress on 10
September, but that did not leave enough time for its ratification
before the election break without a change in the law.
Correspondents say it will be a race against time if Prime
Minister Singh and President Bush sign the deal – first agreed three
years ago – and regarded as a key foreign policy priority for both the
Indian and US governments.
American lawmakers are now reported to be looking at “all
options” to get Congressional approval for the accord, perhaps as part
of another bill.
Earlier this month, the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted a ban
that had stopped India from getting access to the global nuclear
India says the deal with the US is vital for it to meet its civil energy demands.
But critics say it creates a dangerous precedent – effectively
allowing India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring
it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other nations must.
They say the deal would undermine the arguments for isolating
Iran over its nuclear programme and be a disaster for international
The agreement is the centrepiece of US efforts to bolster ties with India.
The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India after it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.
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