Vol. 5 Num 694 Sat. May 13, 2006  

Fate of Indo-US nuke deal hangs in balance

Growing differences between the Bush administration and the Congress appear to have created an uncertainty over the fate of the landmark Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

Surprisingly, the opposition to the deal is being spearheaded by Democrats who were generally seen to be friendly to India.

At a hearing of the House International Relations Committee on Thursday, the fifth in a series, the views of the Democrats have become clearer.

Congressional sources say that some Democrats, who have raised objections to the deal, favour stronger relations between India and the United States, but are reluctant to hand President George Bush a foreign policy coup so close to the November elections.The landmark civilian nuclear agreement concluded during Bush's visit to India in March, would allow New Delhi to buy sensitive nuclear technology for the first time in three decades and India, in turn, would open up its civilian nuclear reactors to IAEA safeguards.

For the deal to become effective, it must be approved by the Congress and Bush administration has already introduced a legislation to amend the 1954 US Atomic Energy Act for an India-specific waiver, but a sceptical Congress has been holding hearings to elicit the views of experts before putting their seal of approval on the legislation.