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'US Congress will pass nuclear deal'

By Archana Masih in Mumbai
March 20, 2006 08:26 IST
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An influential voice in America's Opposition Democratic Party is confident that the India-United States nuclear agreement will be passed by the United States Congress.

There has been speculation that the agreement could be felled by opponents of the deal in Congress -- some of whom, like US Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts are Democrat -- and that President George W Bush does not have the political capital to get the treaty passed by the American parliament, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Speaking exclusively to rediff.com on the margins of the Asia Society conference in Mumbai on Sunday morning, Richard C Holbrooke, US ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration, said, "it is my prediction, my absolute prediction, that Congress will approve the deal."

Holbrooke, who many believed would have been secretary of state had John F Kerry won the last American presidential election, added, "I am virtually certain that Congress will approve the deal, but it will take some work on the part of the (Bush) administration and India's many friends in the United States."

"The law must be changed in the United States because right now the deal is not consistent with the law," Holbrooke, who is also the Asia Society's chairman and a passionate campaigner against AIDS, said, "So there will be a vote in Congress. A simple majority is all that is required for the agreement to be passed."

Asked if President Bush -- who has seen his lowest popularity ratings in recent weeks -- had exhausted his political capital to see the nuclear agreement passed by Congress, Holbrooke declared, "A President never exhausts his political capital!"

"His (Bush's) popularity has been declining," Holbrooke, who also served as President Bill Clinton's special envoy to Bosnia and Kosovo, said, "He has been badly hurt by Iraq and also by domestic issues like the Dubai port deal, but he has plenty of political capital to get this (the India-US nuclear deal) through."

"I predict he will succeed with the Congressional group on the nuclear deal," Holbrooke added.

Why would the US Congress support the agreement, rediff.com correspondents asked.

"Congress will approve the deal for three reasons. First, India is an important country in the world. Second, they will approve it because the President will say it is in the national security interest of the United States. Third, the Indian-American community is becoming more and more influential. They will support the deal and they have influence in both (Democratic and Republican) parties."

rediff.com will post the full text of the exclusive interview with Ambassador Holbrooke later this week. Don't miss it!

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Archana Masih in Mumbai
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