Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai told Congress yesterday that India would not sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty just to get congressional approval for the export of 17,000 pounds of uranium to India.
In a give-and-talk on Capitol Hill with about 50 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee, Desai made clear that regarded a U.S. contract, signed 15 years ago to supply the uranium, as a binding contract that had nothing to do with India's explosion of nuclear device in 1974.
"Desai said that he regarded that explosion as unfortunate and said that it would not be repeated," said Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"But he also took the position that the U.S. had to supply India with uranium and that India would make no concessions to fulfill the terms of the contract."
Yesterday's meetings between Desai and the Senate and House committees came on the eve of today's vote in the House International Relations Committee on whether to approve the export of 17,000 pounds of uranium to supply India's biggest nuclear power station.
The House committee vote was triggered by a 2-to-2 tie vote in Nuclear Regualatory Commission that denied India the export license. That vote was overturned last month by President Carter, who approved the export. Congress has 60 days to disapprove the president's act, or it goes into effect automatically.
"I'm not satisfied with what the prime minister told us, but I will vote to clear the way for the export," said Rep. Paul Findley (R.III.), one of th ranking members of the House committee. "I have apprehensions about it, but granting the export will clearly give us some influence over how India responds to proliferation issues."
Desai repeated to Congress that the reason India would not sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty is that India feels the treaty is "discriminatory" in favor of the superpowers holding most of the world's nuclear weapons.
"He said that when the big nuclear powers stop making nuclear weapons and begin to reduce stockpiles," Findley said, "then India will consider signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty."
Desai did not indicate whether India would agree to put its two plutonium-extraction plants and its two nuclear research reactors under international safeguards to make sure that plutonium did not leave the plants for use in atomic bombs. Instead, he kept referring to the contract the United States signed with India in 1963 to supply uranium to the Tarapur nuclear station for the next 30 years.
"He said nothing has changed," said Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio). "He said you make a contract with us and it is up to the U.S. to live up to its obligations.
The contract Desai cited calls for the United States to supply the Tarapur station through its 30-year lifetime in return for India's agreement not to buy uranium from anybody else. It is the only contract of its kind that the United States has ever signed in the nuclear field.
Earlier in the day, Desai and President Carter discussed the same uranium export license alone for 25 minutes in the Oval Office.
Presidential press secretary Jody Powell acknowledged after the meeting that uranium exports are still a thorn in U.S.-Indian relations, but he also told reporters: "There is a commitment by his government and India to find a solution. All the feeling in both governments is to work for an amicable agreement on that.