The nonproliferation lobby in the United States, which has been opposed to the India-US nuclear deal from the outset, is clearly dejected and deflated. The Nuclear Suppliers Group's exemption to India to engage in global civilian nuclear trade and the Bush administration's quick action in submitting the 123 Agreement to the US Congress has been a major setback for the group.
But, it hasn't given up yet and is hoping that the likes of Congressman Howard Berman, California Democrat, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- who has concerns over the deal-- and even Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a fierce advocate of nuclear nonproliferation, will review the agreement with a fine tooth comb and delay action on its approval. The nonproliferation lobby is hopeful that Berman and Lugar might force the administration and India alleviate all the 'ambiguities and serious problems with the accord'.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association and the coordinator of the coalition of nonproliferation groups and activists opposed to the deal, told rediff.com, "When there is a problem in the world, you never throw in the towel."
He asserted, "The administration is wrong when it says that it has delivered a determination as required by the Hyde Act, because India has not transmitted the list of facilities that will be subject to safeguards under the International Atomic Energy Agency."
Kimball added, "The administration claimed that substantial progress has been made with respect to the Additional Protocol, but there has been no exchange of texts. So, I think, they are trying to pull a fast one on a couple of key issues and they are going to have to reckon with Senators Lugar and Senator Joseph Biden (chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and of course, the House committee on Foreign Affairs on those issues and many others."
President Bush has already invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the White House on August 25, obviously buoyed by the confidence that the Congress will approve the deal by then and both leaders will be able to sign it on that day.
"That's what this has been all about from the very beginning -- it's not been about US interests so much, but at least, in large part, about George Bush's legacy," complained Kimball.
He acknowledged that the NSG waiver to India 'was indeed a great disappointment', but said that the Bush administration and India's contention about all 45 NSG members unequivocally supporting the agreement was 'also a stretch of the truth'.
"I mean, there was no true consensus," Kimball said. "(Secretary of State Condoleezza) Rice and others in the administration rammed this through. A number of countries were unhappy and they stated why they were unhappy."
He said, "What the Congress needs to do is they need to review all of the issues carefully. There are a lot of ambiguities, a lot of unanswered questions. They are going to need to take the time to do that -- whether that's this year or next. It may not matter too much as long as they take the time necessary."
Kimball said, "I think they will put in conditions and clarifications in the resolution of approval that don't allow the administration to pass this deal without clarity on some key issues like testing, enrichment reprocessing, safeguards, which have been at the core of the debate."
Asked if he felt that Congressman Berman and a few others opposed to the deal would fight it to the bitter end, considering that the Indian American community and the business and industry coalition have been enticing lawmakers to support the deal with contributions to their election campaign, fundraisers on their behalf and promise of more contributions, Kimball said, "This should not be about campaign contributions."
"For too many members of Congress, this has been about campaign contributions. We are dealing here with international security issues."
Kimball predicted that Berman, "is going to do his best to see that a responsible decision is made, and that's the basis on which members of Congress ought to be making decisions -- not on who's handing him a check and sticking it in their pocket."