Washington: A senior Republican lawmaker has suggested that the US Congress “look at” passing the 123 Agreement for civil nuclear cooperation between New Delhi and Washington, DC, to give a fillip to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s efforts to pass it in the Indian Parliament.
“A decision will have to be made as to whether or not we should take the position of whether or not India is willing to support the 123 Agreement and get it through their Parliament,” Republican senator George Voinovich said in a teleconference.
“...our passing it would be very significant to members of the Parliament in India...who can say: ‘Look, the US has passed it, the nuclear suppliers are comfortable with it and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is happy with it and all we need now is get it passed and that will make it a reality’,” Voinovich said.
Setting the stage: Ohio senator George Voinovich.
The Ohio senator, who sits in the US’ senate foreign relations committee, said there may be some in the senate “who take the position... why should we get involved when India won’t get it done...and end up with nothing.”
“It is a question of timing,” he added.
“It will be great if they (the Manmohan Singh government) get it through their Parliament. I think that would set the stage for us to do the same here in the US. I think as long as it is held up there it may have influence on us... But I think we should have a look at it,” Voinovich said.
“Would our passage help give them some more clout in terms of getting it through the Parliament? That’s something we would have to look at,” he added.
Voinovich expressed confidence that talks between India and IAEA on the safeguards agreement will be completed “in the next couple of months,” and said the US will “take care” of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), whose clearance is also necessary to operationalize the nuclear deal.
“We have also got to get a sign-off on the IAEA... A couple of years ago they told me that India spends more time talking with them than many of the countries that have signed the (nuclear) non-proliferation treaty. I don’t think there’s going to be any problem with (IAEA chief Mohammed) ElBaradei getting it signed,” he added.
Voinovich, who recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi during a visit, said the Indian leader has done an “outstanding job”.
“I know that the Prime Minister is going to do everything he can to get it passed, but that is a real problem and that is not the only problem,” Voinovich said.
“If the (UPA) government goes down and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) comes back, we (will lose) Singh who has done an outstanding job. If there is anybody in India who is to be given special credit, I think he has been one of the most responsible leaders we’ve had there,” Voinovich said.
The senator accused the BJP of playing politics by opposing the deal.
“The BJP was for the civilian nuclear deal (while it was in power). They were for it but now it looks they are playing politics with it and there is a real question if he (Singh) can get it through the Parliament...” Voinovich said.