In a busy night on Capitol Hill, by a vote of 86-13, the US Senate approved a bill permitting the nation to lift its long-standing ban on nuclear trade with India. The House passed the measure last Saturday without debate; in the Senate, the bill won passage even though only one committee hearing had been held on the matter — and that gathering featured only one witness, who favored the bill.
This bill is a huge victory for George Bush. He and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice conceived of the plan, according to the Washington Post, and have fought for its passage since 2005. Rice is scheduled to visit India this weekend.
Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said the deal would not only “set the stage for a stronger U.S.-India relationship,” but also would promote stability in India’s troubled neighborhood.
“This agreement is indicative of a new era in Indian foreign policy, an era in which India will see all the world’s powers as potential partners in efforts to address its own needs and the needs of others,” Dodd said. “I believe that this new era will bring increased stability and progress in South Asia.”
India and Pakistan have fought several wars since they became independent in 1947, and both countries have tested nuclear weapons.
… Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, spoke against what he called flawed legislation before the vote.
“If we pass this legislation, we will reward India for flouting the most important arms control agreement in history, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and we will gravely undermine our case against hostile nations that seek to do the same,” Harkin said.
… Presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain voted for the bill.
… Bush urged the Senate to pass the bill in a statement released before the vote. The bill “represents a major milestone in the transformation of our nation’s important relationship with India,” the statement said.
Reportedly, the deal includes a clause saying the agreement terminates if India conducts a nuclear test. The ban on nuclear trade with India has been in place since 1974, when the South Asian nation conducted such a test. (India did so again in 1998 and continues to produce fissile material, according to the Washington Post.)
From Al Jazeera:
In a statement shortly after the bill was passed, Bush hailed the deal saying it will strengthen the US-India “strategic partnership” as well as efforts to halt the spread of atomic weapons.
“This legislation will strengthen our global nuclear non-proliferation efforts, protect the environment, create jobs, and assist India in meeting its growing energy needs in a responsible manner.”
… [T]he deal offers India access to Western technology and cheap atomic energy.
In return New Delhi must allow UN inspections of some of its nuclear facilities.
… “President Bush and his aides were so eager for a foreign policy success that they didn’t even try to get India to limit its weapons programme in return,” the New York Times said in an editorial on Tuesday.
“They got no promise from India to stop producing bomb-making material, no promise to to expand its arsenal, and no promise not to resume nuclear testing.”