Washington: India has given the kiss of life to a civilian nuclear deal with the United States but the American Congress may not have enough time to give it the mandatory approval under President George W. Bush’s tenure, experts say.
Aside from a tight 2008 US legislative calendar ahead of the November presidential polls, India will have to devise stringent safeguards to cushion the landmark deal from proliferation concerns.
There may be even bigger hurdles for the deal, under which the United States will provide India civilian nuclear fuel and technology. India has to first gain approval for a set of nuclear proliferation safeguards from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global nuclear watchdog, which could meet late this month to consider the issue.
The Asian power, which is not a signatory to the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will also have to win a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to conduct atomic commerce.
The 45-member group of nuclear technology exporting nations could consider India’s case in September. The IAEA and NSG approvals are mandatory before the US Congress can debate possibly in September the deal’s operational agreement that was reached about a year ago by the two governments.
The New York Times warned against rushing through the deal, saying Bush gave away far too much and got far too little for it. At a minimum, it said, the United States must insist that international suppliers halt nuclear trade if India tested another nuclear weapon, as it last did in 1998.
“This is not an ordinary situation because India is asserting that the (IAEA) safeguards agreement can be terminated by India if foreign (nuclear) fuel supplies are interrupted even if India conducts a test,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
“That assertion should be flatly rejected by the director general of the IAEA and member states, he said. “Otherwise this would make a mockery of the principle of permanent safeguards.”