The nonproliferation lobby is not happy at all with Congressman Howard Berman's bill, which he introduced in the House of Representatives on September 25. Nonproliferation activists feel that their strongest advocate, who had been critical of the India-United States civilian nuclear agreement, has let them down by capitulating to the Bush administration with a piece of legislation, which is a clone of the measure that was approved two days earlier by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and awaits action on the Senate floor.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association and the coordinator of the coalition of nonproliferation groups and activists that have been arrayed against the deal from the beginning, told rediff.com, "We are not happy (with Berman's bill). He did not take our advice."
"If you were to do a side by side with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee bill, there aren't too many differences," he said.
Kimball said, "Neither the Senate Resolution of Approval nor the House Resolution preferred by Berman addressed the problem that Mr Berman and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are very well aware of."
"I think the Congress should not be rushing to make a bad policy decision. They should take the time that was required to look at all the differing interpretations between the government of India and the US government on key issues and try to make sure that the number of key loopholes are closed," he said.
Kimball reiterated, "Neither of these resolutions adequately address the deep nonproliferation flaws in the agreement, they do not clearly resolve the inconsistencies between the India-US 123 Agreement and the 2006 Henry Hyde Act, which gives the President limited and conditional authority to engage in nuclear trade with India even though it does not meet the usual standards for such trade."
He said, "The resolutions do not resolve the differing interpretations between US officials and Indian officials about key points of the agreement, particularly those relating to termination and fuel supply assurances."
Kimball lamented that "The administration, on September 6, jammed through the Nuclear Suppliers' Group a waiver that does not incorporate the same common sense restrictions and conditions on nuclear trade with India that are required for US nuclear trade with India under the 2006 Hyde Act."
Thus, he said both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee resolutions, "do not require the United States to ensure that other NSG states, such as France and Russia operate by the same nuclear trading rules with India."
"The India-US nuclear cooperation agreement is a nonproliferation disaster," Kimball said, and added that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee resolutions of approval fell far short of addressing the issues and problems.
He said, "The committees should have and could have kept the requirement in the Hyde Act to allow the agreement to sit before the Congress for 30 days and to hold hearings in both committees before taking up any resolution of approval."
Kimball and the nonproliferation lobby also sent out a letter to all members of the House to oppose the Berman bill, warning that "contrary to the rules established by the Congress in 2006 under the Atomic Energy Act, the Bush administration is rushing this deal through Congress on an expedited basis without hearings. This is unwise and irresponsible."
The letter contained all of the concerns he had enumerated to rediff.com and implored the lawmakers that "The proposal should not be rushed through the Congress without a proper and thorough review."
"Given that India has not signed the safeguards agreement and given that nuclear deals cannot occur until India adopts nuclear liability treaty, delaying consideration of the nuclear trade agreements will not affect US nuclear trade prospects," the ACA said in its missive to the lawmakers.
But Kimball acknowledged that the writing was on the wall and the nonproliferation lobby could not stop the Berman legislation from being overwhelmingly approved by the lawmakers.