India Nuke Deal Worth 'Billions'
A landmark US deal extending civilian nuclear technology to India
could open up 100 billion dollars in business ventures for Americans
in the Indian energy sector, a top US business lobby group said overnight.
US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
clinched the deal in New Delhi last week that still required mandatory
US Congress approval for implementation. It gives India access to
long-denied civilian nuclear technology in return for placing a majority
of its nuclear reactors under international inspection.
"This agreement could provide the US business community with 100 billion
dollars worth of new opportunities in India in the energy sector alone,"
said Dan Christman, the US Chamber of Commerce's senior vice president
of international affairs.
It would also spur energy-starved India's economic reforms and open
markets to US investment in key areas from IT and telecom to pharmaceuticals
and insurance, he said as Congress mulled legislative action necessary
to clear the deal.
The Bush administration has proposed to Congress that an India-specific
amendment be made to the US Atomic Energy Act, which currently prohibits
nuclear sales to states which are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
India is currently barred under US and international law from acquiring
foreign nuclear technology because it refused to sign the NPT and
developed nuclear weapons.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "gave to the congressional
leadership this week in the meetings she had, some ideas for how this
legislation could be written," a senior State Department official
"We have to respect the prerogatives of Congress but we are suggesting
India-specific amendments to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954," Nicholas
Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs said.
"It's a waiver authority ... We are not seeking relief from US law
for any country in the world except India and we don't anticipate
putting any country forward. So it is India specific," Burns said
after briefing the US Chamber of Commerce on the deal.
The chamber, which represents more than three million American businesses
and organisations, said it would make a "massive grassroots effort"
to win congressional approval of the agreement.
The deal would not only foster a stronger strategic bilateral partnership
but also enhance nuclear non-proliferation efforts, reduce greenhouse
gas emissions, and open the door to more trade between the two large
democracies, the chamber said.
"We're confident that once Congress has all the facts, they will strongly
endorse an agreement that will help cement a new and important strategic
partnership between the United States and India," Mr Christman said.
"We're going to ensure that Congress and the public get those facts
and clearly understand the extraordinary benefits of stronger ties
between our two great democracies," he said.
The pact, which also must be approved by the 44-member Nuclear Suppliers
Group, would end three decades of isolation under which India was
denied help for its civilian energy program after it first tested
a nuclear weapon and refused to sign the NPT.
Mr Bush faces a battle to get the accord through the US Congress where
legislators are concerned that regimes like Iran and North Korea will
cite it to pursue their own nuclear weapons ambitions.
Under the deal, New Delhi will split its closely entwined civilian
and military nuclear facilities and put 14 of 22 civilian nuclear
reactors under international inspection by 2014.
Critics have focused on a provision allowing India to declare fast
breeder reactors out of reach of international inspectors. They "breed"
more fuel than they use and could be employed to develop more nuclear
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