| President Bush in a Congress push. (Reuters)
Washington, June 9: The Bush administration has decided to take the plunge and go for a vote in the US Congress on the Indo-US nuclear deal by the end of this month.
Simultaneously, opponents of the deal are marshalling a group of Nobel Prize winners who will release a joint letter in Washington criticising the deal next week as a way of putting psychological pressure on US lawmakers to vote against the agreement.
The Bush administration is considering two options.
One is to get the House International Relations Committee (HIRC) to approve the enabling legislation for the deal and leave it to the full House of Representatives to vote on the bill at a later date. The other option is to get both chambers of the US Congress to pass non-binding, “sense-of-the-House” resolutions in support of the deal and await the results of ongoing Indo-US negotiations on various loose ends before passing the bills before the Senate and the House into law.
Crucial talks on these loose ends will start in New Delhi on Monday with a US delegation and go on for three full days.
The White House believes that either of the options it is proposing to the US Congress this week will send a message to India that the administration and the legislature are working in tandem in Washington.
That, in turn, will encourage New Delhi to fulfil its part of the bargain for implementation of the deal, it is hoped. But a major problem here is that Indian lobbying for the deal is, at times, not only without direction, but also counter-productive.
On Wednesday, the US-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), an Indian-American organisation, which is at the centre of efforts to mobilise Congressional support for the deal, announced backing from Henry Hyde, the HIRC chairman, for the agreement. But within hours, Kristi Garlock, Hyde’s spokeswoman,told The Hill, an influential publication on the US Congress, that the USINPAC’s claim was untrue.
She said Hyde “has serious concerns regarding the proposed civil nuclear agreement”, adding that the Congressman was in the process of crafting his own bill.
“The chairman reiterated his support for the President’s initiative in reaching an agreement with India, however he did tell (the) USINPAC that he will be working...to craft a bipartisan piece of legislation that supports the President’s effort to strengthen ties with India,” Garlock said.
Such incidents are embarrassing for those on Capitol Hill who are genuinely working to secure Congressional approval for the deal because they give the impression among US legislators that the Indians are trying to mislead them and create a mirage of support, where it does not exist.
It is in significant contrast to the way opponents of the deal are methodically going about their business.There is considerable concern in Indian and Indian-American circles here about the proposed declaration on Wednesday by Nobel laureates that they are opposed to the deal.
The campaign to mobilise Nobel Prize winners against the deal is being organised by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). The FAS is sponsored by nearly 60 Nobel laureates in biology, chemistry, economics, medicine and physics,but it is not yet clear how many of them will actually come out against the deal.