The US Senate has given final congressional approval to an agreement to end the three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with India, sending the legislation to President George W. Bush for signing into law.
The US Senate on Wednesday endorsed a landmark US-India nuclear agreement, removing the final legislative hurdle for resumption of civilian nuclear trade between the two countries after three decades.
Senators voted 86-13 to give overwhelming approval to the deal and lifted a ban on civilian nuclear trade imposed after India first conducted a nuclear test explosion in 1974.
The agreement, which will help provide critical energy to fuel India's booming economy, was already approved by the US House of Representatives at the weekend by a 298-117 vote.
The solid congressional backing underscored bipartisan support for President George W. Bush's bid to improve relations with India, the world's most populous democracy, officials said.
"This is one of the most important strategic diplomatic initiatives undertaken in the last decade," said senior Republican Senator Richard Lugar.
"By concluding this pact, the US has embraced a long-term outlook that will give us new diplomatic options and improve global stability," he said.
At attempt by several senators earlier to amend the agreement to make it clear that the deal would be scrapped if India carried out further nuclear test explosions was rejected by a unanimous vote.
"If India resumes testing, the 123 agreement is over," Lugar said, citing US laws and persistent assurances from the State Department.
India, which has not signed the NPT, an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty dating from the 1960s that is intended to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, has argued that it has the sovereign right to conduct atomic weapon tests.
Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh first agreed to the deal in 2005 but divisions within India's ruling coalition partners as well from the opposition delayed approvals in New Delhi.
Both the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and the communists slammed the deal, saying it would curb India's military options and bring the country's foreign policy too much under US influence.
The deal offers India access to sophisticated US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for New Delhi allowing UN inspections of some of its civilian nuclear facilities.
Military nuclear installations will not be opened for scrutiny.
With US-led diplomacy, the deal had already won approvals from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls global atomic trade.
Following the NSG greenlight, India signed a landmark atomic energy pact with France earlier this week.
France, the world's second producer of nuclear energy after the United States, hopes to lead a worldwide revival of the industry fueled by worries about global warming and soaring energy prices.
Some US senators criticized the agreement with a non-NPT member, saying it set a bad example for nuclear renegades North Korea and Iran.
They argued that it would also make India a "de facto" nuclear weapons state without them having to sign the NPT.
"India gets to have their cake and eat it too," Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman said.
"The agreement also makes it difficult for us to justify to other NPT signatories such as South Africa, Taiwan and Brazil which have postponed their own nuclear weapons programs as part of signing up for the NPT," Bingaman said.
Date created : 2008-10-02