Washington, Dec. 8: The final bill to end 32 years of nuclear winter between India and the US is the product of a series of compromises involving Iran baiters, non-proliferationists and India enthusiasts in America’s diverse political establishment.
Indians, especially those opposed to the deal in its present form, could still list a litany of complaints against the bill. But the Americans are making it clear that this is about all New Delhi is going to get from Washington.
By far, the biggest compromise the Americans made was on Iran, a highly emotive issue here in view of Tehran’s nuclear programme.
To take into account Indian sensitivities about being dictated to on relations with Iran, the conference of Senators and members of the House of Representatives, who worked out the final text of the bill, diluted the provision on Iran to a mere “expectation” from India.
“The conferees, along with both Houses, place great emphasis on their expectation that India’s full cooperation with efforts by the US and the international community to prevent Iran from acquiring the capability to produce nuclear weapons will be forthcoming,” the report to Congress on reconciling two versions of the bill said.
Tom Lantos, the incoming chairman of the House International Relations Committee, has been greatly upset by criticism in India that he stood in the way of the civilian nuclear deal and that, being a Holocaust survivor, he is “pathologically opposed to Iran”.
Last night, he described the compromise on Iran as a “satisfying consensus”.
If India does not cooperate on Iran, there is, however, still time for Congressmen like Lantos to twist the arms of Indian negotiators.
Congress will have to eventually approve or reject the “123 Agreement”, so called because it is under Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, the two countries will sign, laying down the nitty-gritty of the nuclear deal.
Under the original version of the bill, the US President was required to determine and report to Congress that India was helping “international efforts” to contain Iran.
By virtue of another watered-down provision, the US will now “encourage” India not to increase its production of fissile material at unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.
Earlier, non-proliferationists were adamant that India should stop producing fissile material.
Notwithstanding these and other diluted provisions, it is clear Congress intends to keep the deal within its sight for a long time to come.
Within six months after the “123 Agreement” enters into force, and annually thereafter, the President will have to report to Congress “a description of any additional nuclear facilities and nuclear materials that the government of India has placed or intends to place” under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.