The House International Relations Committee yesterday approved President Carter's plan to export 17,000 pounds of uranium to India's biggest nuclear power station, apparently assuring continued U.S. atomic fuel shipments to India.
By a 2-to-2 tie vote, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had held up the export to India. But President Carter overturned that decision and approved the shipment. Then a resolution was introduced in Congress to reverse the president and uphold the NRC.
By voice vote, however, the House committee voted down this "resolution of disapproval" to block the uranium export to India. The resolution had been signed by 57 House members but the committee vote was heavily against blocking the shipment.
"If this license is denied, the result would be an end to negotiations between the United States and India on safeguarding Indian nuclear facilities and on India's signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty," said Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D-N.Y.), a leader inside the committee on allowing the shipment. "India would become totally nonco-operative on the nuclear proliferation question."
The House committee vote almost assures that the 17,000 pound shipment to India will be allowed. The full House may still vote on the issue on the floor and the Senate may take it up in the next two weeks, but sentiment in both the House and Senate is with the president on the export license. It would take a majority of both the House and Senate to disapprove the export.
"My feeling is that in a matter of this kind of the president is entitled to Frank Church (D-Idaho), second-rankand Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.), the benefit of the doubt," said Sen. Frank Church (D. Idaho), second rankard Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. "We have one president at a time and we can't be engaged in a constant guerrilla war about this issue!"
Reps. Bingham Paul Findley (R-Ill.) and Clement J. Zaldocki (D-Wis.), chairman of the House committee, distributed a "Dear Colleague" letter yesterday morning before the committee vote urging approval of the export. The reason they gave for allowing the export was that the United States would lose more leverage with India if it denied the shipment.
"While we have expressed our concern in the past that too little progress has been forthcoming," the letter said, "we are somewhat reassured by the fact that these discussions have improved and intensified."
The "discussions" the letter alluded to are the talks between the United States and India to get India to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and accept international inspections of two plutonium extraction plants and two research reactors it operates that are not under such safeguards.
India has consistently refused to sign the treaty or accept safeguards until the super-powers agree to stop making nuclear weapons and begin nuclear disarmament talks. But in a breakfast talk with reporters at Blair House yesterday, Prime Minister Morarji Desai appeared to soften India's position somewhat.
Desai said India "immediately" will agree to inspections on its unsafeguarded facilities if the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain agree to ban all underground nuclear weapons tests and agree to reduce their current nuclear arsenals.
"That's the impression I have," Sen. Church said after listening to Desai in Congress and at the White House yesterday. "That India might consider joining in a comprehensive test ban (India has exploded one nuclear device) if such a ban can be agreed to by the U.S. and Soviet Union."
Sen. John Glenn (D., Ohio) said in a telephone interview that the State Department has said that India has exhibited a new willingness to discuss safeguards.
"State says that India is now willing to talk where they weren't willing before," Glenn said. "State says India is talking more about things they pulled down the curtain on in the past."