U.S. lawmakers and groups opposing the civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement between India and the United States are stepping up their efforts on the eve of President Bush's visit to New Delhi.
Assurances by President Bush and others that the India-U.S. accord on technology sharing and other cooperation poses no threat to non-proliferation efforts have not quieted opposition in Congress.
Pointing out that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, opponents say congressional approval of legislation the White House would have to submit, would open the door to a multitude of new problems.
Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey says President Bush is ignoring the implications regarding not only India's efforts to strengthen its existing nuclear weapons arsenal, but for other countries seeking or thought to possess nuclear weapons:
"We have a president who is about to travel to India and to Pakistan who is, I am afraid, oblivious to the consequences of cutting a deal with the Indians on the transfer of nuclear materials in terms of its implications for Iran, for North Korea, for Pakistan and for other countries around the world," said Ed Markey.
Markey says if the U.S.-India agreement goes forward other countries are certain to ask for the same treatment.
Monday's news conference included representatives of groups supporting legislation sponsored by Markey and a Republican lawmaker, Fred Upton.
Daryl Kimbal, of the Arms Control Association, calls the benefits of the accord illusory [misleading], saying it would undermine nonproliferation efforts at a very delicate time:
"The terms of the proposal would not oblige New Delhi to undertake the same practices as the five original nuclear weapons states: the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China," said Daryl Kimbal. "It would not, for instance, require India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, nor would it commit India to an early cessation of the nuclear arms race, as Article Six of the NPT requires those other states."
Kimbal says the supply of nuclear equipment and fuel to India would, in his words, blow a hole in the 1978 U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Act and the rules of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
If Congress chooses not to block the accord, he says lawmakers should insist on meaningful safeguards covering Indian civilian nuclear facilities, and require India to halt production of fissile materials for weapons purposes.
Brent Blackwelder, of Friends of the Earth, echoes other groups challenging the environmental justifications the Bush administration and India have put forward in support of the agreement:
"Now President Bush is set to offer a dirty nuclear energy deal to India, a dirty one because the toxic radioactive waste legacy of nuclear power has to this day no solution in sight," said Brent Blackwelder. "And in the process, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty will be thrown on the dust heap of history."
These groups assert the environmental costs to India from the civilian nuclear cooperation deal far outweigh the benefits.
President Bush hopes to be able to sign a final agreement on the civilian nuclear energy accord with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi this week.
The two sides have been holding intense preparatory talks, trying to overcome roadblocks on issues such as the requirement for India to separate its civilian and military facilities.