The much awaited N-DEAL for India was passed successfully by US senators.The US Congress today put its stamp of approval on the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal when the Senate overwhelmingly voted a Bill rejecting all the killer amendments, paving the way for the implementation of the historic initiative between the two countries.
The deal, entered into between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush in 2005 and which nearly brought down the UPA Government, was approved by the Senate with 86 voting for and 13 against with bi-partisan support after rejecting the killer amendments moved by two Democratic Senators.
Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden, a strong supporter of India, also voted for the Bill. The Bill, which has already been cleared by the House of Representatives, will now head to the White House for Bush’s approval.
With today’s Senate vote, the deal is now ready for signing by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice when she arrives in New Delhi on her rescheduled trip on Saturday with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Already approved by the House of Representatives, the Bill has a paragraph that the US can cease nuclear cooperation with India if New Delhi conducts a test.
The Senate approval marks the tortuous path the deal took in the last three years, especially in India with the Left parties who had supported the UPA government from outside strongly opposing the deal and withdrawing support on the issue.
In an apparent attempt to assuage the naysayers, Rice had yesterday wrote a letter to Senate majority leader Harry Reid, saying a nuclear test by India would result in “most serious consequences”, including automatic cut-off of US cooperation as well as a number of other sanctions.
However, Rice said the US believed that the Indian Government intends to uphold the continuation of the nuclear testing moratorium it affirmed to the United States in 2005 and reiterated to the broader international community as recently as September 5, 2008.
The deal between the two countries also led to the ending of 34 years of nuclear apartheid against India when the NSG granted a historic waiver on September six after which France also signed an agreement with India for civil nuclear cooperation.
The passage of the 123 agreement is considered as a major diplomatic victory for the Bush administration. White House hopefuls Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain also voted in favour of the Bill.
The Prime Minister himself was to sign the deal last week during his meeting with Bush, but could not do so because of the US Congress’ pre-occupation with the financial bailout package.
The Bush administration had said that the pact will secure a strategic partnership with India to meet its rising energy demand and open up a market worth billions. At the start of the two-minute debate prior to voting, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Richard Lugar asked his colleagues to participate in a “historic” moment.
“This is an opportunity for the United States and India to come together in a way that historically is important for the world. India is a very important country for us and this relationship is sealed in a very significant way by this agreement,” he said.
But Byron Dorgan of North Dakota insisted with the amendment that he and his colleague from New Mexico introduced stressing that the US-India agreement is a “flawed” one that would result in the addition of more nuclear weapons in the planet.
But Senator Christopher Dodd, Acting Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Floor Manager on Wednesday for the legislation, came back with a spirited response to the call of his colleague on the Amendment.