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N-Deal: Council on Foreign relations urges approval

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC
June 08, 2006 01:22 IST
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The influential Council on Foreign Relations has warned that if Congress does not approve the US-India civilian nuclear agreement, 'it would damage the bilateral relationship,' and has recommended that the lawmakers should adopt a two-stage compromise approach in order to envisage the legislation's passage.

In a new report, titled, 'US-India Nuclear Cooperation: A Strategy Moving Forward,' the Council said Congress should formally endorse the deal's basic framework while delaying final approval until it is assured that critical nonproliferation needs are met.

The report authored by Michael Levi and Charles Ferguson, both Council Fellows for science and technology, argued, "Patience and a few simple fixes would address major proliferation concerns while ultimately strengthening the strategic partnership."

Indo-US Nuclear Tango

It acknowledged that the "Bush Administration has stirred deep passions and put Congress in the seemingly impossible bind of choosing between approving the deal and damaging nuclear proliferation, or rejecting the deal and thereby setting back an important strategic relationship."

Thus, the authors advised Congress " reserve the bulk of its political capital for a handful of top-tier objectives," which they spelt out should focus on "...preventing Indian nuclear testing and fundamental changes in Indian nuclear strategy, rather than blocking growth in the number of Indian nuclear weapons."

"It should focus on obtaining cooperation - from India as well as other countries -- in controlling the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies, instead of on measures that would shape the development of nuclear technology in India itself," the report said.

In this regard, Levi and Ferguson said, "Congress should issue a set of bottom-line requirements for the formal US-India nuclear cooperation agreement,for India's inspection agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and for new Nuclear Suppliers Group rules that would allow nuclear commerce with India, and enforce those requirements by refusing to pass final legislation enabling nuclear cooperation until the agreements are in place and are satisfactory."

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC