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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Congressional Committee Examines Proposed U.S.-India Partnership

26 October 2005

Plan would require changes to existing nonproliferation laws

By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A congressional committee has begun examining what impact a proposed global partnership between the United States and India would have on efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and related technology.

House International Relations Chairman Henry J. Hyde said that the fully implemented partnership -- first announced by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh July 18 in Washington -- will require Congress to change existing laws that govern nonproliferation policies.

"To implement the nuclear cooperation elements of the agreement, congressional assent must be obtained in the form of amending the relevant laws now forbidding such cooperation with India and other countries which are not in compliance with key nonproliferation practices and conventions," Hyde said at the opening of a hearing October 26.

For that reason, Hyde said this hearing and others to follow will bring in experts from government and the private sector to solicit recommendations for how Congress might best consider the agreement and legislative actions needed.

"It would be grossly irresponsible for this committee and for the Congress as a whole to act with unnecessary haste regarding a subject which can bear no false steps,” he said.

However, Hyde also acknowledged "the [Bush] administration's recently announced global partnership with India is, in itself, to be welcomed.  For too long, our two countries have been opposed to one another for reasons that have little grounding in any objective factor and have been blind to the logic of their own interests."

Hyde said that the administration plans to work closely with Congress on the issue, and observed that in September senior State Department officials Nicholas Burns, head of political affairs, and Robert Joseph, head of the arms control and international security, testified about the nature of the partnership and presented the Bush administration's views.

Bush, in a joint statement with Singh, announced a global partnership with India to promote stability, democracy, prosperity and peace, including civil nuclear energy cooperation.  Bush noted the "significance of civilian nuclear energy for meeting growing global energy demands in a cleaner and more efficient manner," and that he would "work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India." (See related article.)

Representative James A. Leach, who is chairman of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said support for closer U.S.-India relations is deep and bipartisan.

"Few trends in Asia are more consequential than America's increasingly robust relationship with India," he said.

Neil Joeck, senior fellow at the Center for Global Security Research at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, testified that the new agreement with India recognizes that international security is achieved through a layered approach.

"The agreement with India, while acknowledging the reality of India's nuclear weapons program, will supplement global efforts to enhance global security," he said.

Hyde acknowledged that there are critics of the partnership who argue that the proposed changes to long-standing U.S. policy threaten to undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and global nonproliferation efforts.  But he also said there are proponents who believe that the advantages of bringing India into the international nonproliferation regime outweigh these and other concerns.

For additional information, see U.S.-India: Strengthening a Global Partnership.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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