Tough Stance Is Urged On Nuclear Pact With India

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 5, 2007

Key lawmakers have written a bipartisan House resolution that urges a group of nations engaged in nuclear trade to place toughly worded constraints on future nuclear dealings with India.

The resolution, introduced late yesterday by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), is nonbinding. But it has the potential to significantly delay, or even derail, final approval of a nuclear deal that President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice consider part of their foreign policy legacy.

Congressional aides said the resolution is aimed at influencing the coming debate within the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and a budding controversy in India over the pact. The timing of the legislation also appears linked to next week's visit to India of Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Bush's agreement with India is designed to solidify Washington's relationship with a fast-emerging economic power. If Congress gives the deal final approval, India will be able to engage in civil nuclear trade with the United States, even though it has not signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to the pact in July 2005, but it has faced many hurdles. Congress gave preliminary approval last year in a bill known as the Hyde Act. New Delhi and Washington negotiated language this year to comply with the law, but lawmakers have said that the administration did not fulfill congressional instructions.

Nevertheless, some concessions made by New Delhi in the talks with the United States have sparked opposition in India. Foes of the plan there have said the agreement impinges on Indian sovereignty.

The NSG, which governs trade in reactors and uranium, has begun to debate whether to grant India an exemption from nuclear trade rules, which is essential for the deal to proceed. The resolution urges the administration, which has begun to lobby for NSG approval, not to seek an exemption until it has addressed congressional concerns over compliance with the Hyde Act.

The resolution also says the United States should support an exemption only if it contains key provisions of the Hyde Act, including the end of trade with India if it conducts a nuclear test and a ban on the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology to India.

Congressional aides provided a copy of the text, saying they hoped it would make clear to India Congress's increasing uneasiness with the pact. One noted language in the resolution's preamble saying that if the NSG approves the exemption, but Congress votes down the deal, India could engage in civil nuclear commerce with every country but the United States, which would put U.S. firms "at a competitive disadvantage."

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