- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

Vice President Dick Cheney urged Congress yesterday to “update Cold War policies” by supporting the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Initiative, saying delays in its passage would jeopardize a key strategic relationship.

Mr. Cheney, speaking to the U.S.-India Business Council after it awarded him a distinguished service award, said the U.S. economy and national security would benefit from the legislation, which would allow the United States to share civilian nuclear technology with India.

Congress remains divided over the issue and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told the Financial Times last week that he did not think the matter would be decided by the end of this year.

Mr. Cheney said delay and unnecessary amendments could ruin the deal. He called on members of Congress who support the initiative to help expedite legislation, specifically naming Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat; Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican; and Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, New York Democrat.

“This is one of the most strategic foreign policy initiatives of this administration,” he said.

Critics of the deal say it would weaken the U.S. position in nuclear negotiations with Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Cheney said, however, that India had an exemplary nuclear track record and that the deal would reinforce nonproliferation efforts.

“This would allow India to enter the [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] mainstream and conform to global standards,” he said.

In response to another raised fear, Mr. Cheney said, “There is concern in America about the outsourcing of jobs to India. Congress should address this by focusing on job training and education, to ensure that Americans can fill high-level jobs.”

Mr. Cheney also said nuclear energy deals could reduce international competition for limited oil resources and improve the environment because nuclear energy is cleaner than that generated by coal and oil.

The legislation, due for a markup in the House and Senate next week, requires Congress to amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1978, which prohibits the United States from sharing civilian nuclear technology with nations that have nuclear weapons programs that are not subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

India tested its first nuclear bomb in 1974. The country is not a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Under legislation introduced in March, an exemption for India would depend upon several conditions: India would have to present a plan to segregate its civilian and military nuclear facilities, negotiate a treaty limiting the production of fissile material, adopt IAEA safeguards, and work to prevent the spread of technology that could assist other states in developing weapons.

Additionally, the 45 nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group would have to reach a consensus to endorse the deal. In March, many NSG members told Reuters news agency that they would support the initiative so long as the IAEA can assure them that India’s military and civilian programs are separate.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide