Washington (PTI): An NSG waiver "inconsistent" with Hyde Act will "jeopardise" the Indo-US nuclear deal in Congress,a key US lawmaker has warned the Bush administration, insisting that the group should agree to terminate the pact with India if it conducts an atomic test.
Democrat Howard Berman, Chairman of the crucial House Foreign Affairs Committee told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the deal should be shelved till January next year as there is not enough time for the Congress to study it by September 8 when it is scheduled to meet next.
The Congressional panel will examine the 123 Agreement when it is presented to the Congress for its approval.
"I am a friend of India and a supporter of US-India nuclear cooperation. Yet I find it incomprehensible that the Administration apparently intends to seek or accept an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines for India with few or none of the conditions contained in the Henry J. Hyde Act," Berman said in his letter to Rice which was made public yesterday.
While seeking a waiver to the accord from the 45-member NSG later this month, the lawmaker said it must be ensured that exemptions agreed reflect conditions of the Hyde Act .
"An exemption inconsistent with the US law will place American firms at a severe competitive disadvantage and undermine critical US nonproliferation objectives. It will also jeopardise congressional support for nuclear cooperation with India in future," he said.
The administration must be mindful of several key things like the immediate termination of all nuclear commerce by NSG member states if India detonates a nuclear explosive device or if the IAEA determines that India has violated its safeguards commitments, he said.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved a safeguards agreement that will allow UN monitors to inspect India's civilian nuclear facilities. The deal must now get the approval of the NSG members and then be ratified by the US Congress to become operational.
Berman insisted that there will have to be a prohibition on transfer of enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water production technology by any NSG member to India, a stipulation that NSG supplier states will not allow India to reprocess nuclear fuel except in a facility that is under permanent and unconditional safeguards.
"All these complex issues should be examined in a serious and detailed fashion and it would be better to shelve the deal till the Congress meet in January 2009," he said, adding there is not enough time to present it to Congress by September 8 when it is scheduled to meet next.
"Even if the India-specific agreement reaches Congress by September 8, it is unlikely that Congress will have sufficient time to fully consider all the issues surrounding the deal, the associated safeguards agreement, and the NSG decision -- and to ascertain their impact on US and global nonproliferation standards," Berman said.
He, however, added he was "concerned about the potential for a significant time gap between an accelerated NSG decision and congressional action on the agreement".
"This would give other countries an unacceptable head-start in securing commercial nuclear contracts with the Indian Government, thus placing US firms at a competitive disadvantage," Berman said in the letter.
"In your appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee on February 13 of this year, you assured me that any NSG decision 'will have to be completely consistent with the obligations of the Hyde Act'," Berman reminded Rice. "As such, I expect you to instruct the US representative to the NSG not to seek or support any exemption for India that does not faithfully reflect all of the Hyde Act conditions," he said.
The Bush administration is hopeful of approaching the Congress by September 8.
But the clearance from the Congress this year is unlikely with an early target adjournment of the session by September 26 to facilitate Presidential and Congressional elections.
The President, however, could call for a Lame Duck session of Congress after the November 4 elections in order to finish outstanding legislations like spending bills and push the civilian nuclear deal during the phase.
Courtesy: The Hindu