Washington: The chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee has urged the Bush administration to shelve the nuclear trade deal with India unless it can guarantee compliance with a US law that would suspend trade if India tested a nuclear weapon again.
In a letter to secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, California representative Howard Berman, a California Democrat, said it would be better to suspend congressional approval of the deal until the next Congress, which convenes in January.
“Given the lateness in the congressional session, it would be better to review these complex matters in the next Congress when they can receive a full and serious examination,” Berman said.
The Bush administration wants Congress to approve the agreement before it leaves office next January.
Tough talk: US Congressman Howard Berman says it would be better to suspend approval of the deal until the Congress convenes in January. (Stephen Voss / Bloomberg)
A state department spokesman declined to comment.
The proposed accord aims to give India access to US nuclear fuel and equipment, overturning a ban imposed after New Delhi, which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, conducted a nuclear test in 1974.
A major obstacle was cleared recently when the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog approved an inspection plan for India’s nuclear energy plants.
Now Washington and New Delhi hope to persuade the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, or NSG, to grant India an unprecedented waiver, allowing nuclear trade with a non-NPT state. Once that happens, the administration plans to turn to, Congress for its approval of the pact.
Berman warned that Congress would not act before its 26 September target adjournment date unless the Bush administration pushed NSG to attach conditions to its waiver copied from legislation Congress passed on the India deal in 2006.
The legislation said among other things that nuclear assistance to India would be suspended if it resumed nuclear testing.
Meanwhile, other countries might rush in to take advantage of a more lenient NSG waiver and do business with India on their own terms, Berman warned.
“This would give other countries an unacceptable head-start in securing commercial nuclear contracts with the Indian Government, thus placing US firms at a competitive disadvantage,” Berman wrote to Rice.