Many U.S. Congressmen have asked for a change in the U.S.-India nuclear deal signed early this month, the New York Times reported Friday. In the agreement reached last week, Washington reversed longstanding policy by agreeing to sell nuclear technology to India despite India not having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
As Congressional debate began Thursday on bills that would approve the Bush administration's nuclear deal with India, many Senate and House members were telling administration officials that they wanted to rewrite parts of the agreement, the newspaper said. Many believe, that in the new context of geo-political transformation and India's growing nuclear power needs, an exception to the NPT can be made for India.
The leaders of the House and the Senate Foreign Relations committees introduced bills on Thursday to authorize the deal. But the Republican chairman of the committees made it clear that they did not necessarily support the legislation and were introducing it only as a favor to the White House.
The White House, in a March 8 press release strongly defended the Nuclear pact. It denied that the deal would accelerate the nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan, saying Washington "has no intention of aiding" New Delhi's atomic weapons program or of concluding a similar cooperation deal with Islamabad.
"We do not intend to pursue a similar civil nuclear cooperation initiative with Pakistan," said the White House.
It also dismissed any notion of a double-standard that might embolden nuclear ambitions in Tehran or Pyongyang.
"It is not credible to compare the rogue regimes of North Korea and Iran to India. Unlike Iran or North Korea, India has been a peaceful and vibrant democracy with a strong nuclear nonproliferation record," the White House said.
The news release from Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, placed the words "at the request" of the administration in capital letters.
This week, Hyde said he believed members of Congress "may seek conditions for its approval." The New York Times quoted an unidentified official as saying that could mean reopening the deal and making changes.
Under a plan made last July, the United States would help India build nuclear power plants, and India would allow regular international inspections of its civilian reactors. As part of the agreement signed in New Delhi, India has agreed to put all civilian reactors under IAEA inspections and safeguards.
U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached a formal agreement during Bush's visit to New Delhi this month. But the deal is subject to the approval of Congress and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the nations that control nuclear trade.
Critics said that the U.S.-India nuclear deal violates American law and the NSG practice because India has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Concerns over proliferation and the continued secrecy of India's nuclear weapons program leave many members of the U.S. Congress wary, the New York Times said.