A senior U.S. State Department official Thursday urged members of
Congress to approve a U.S.-India nuclear cooperation agreement before
the House and Senate adjourn next week ahead of November elections.
But some lawmakers are concerned the accord could undermine global
nonproliferation efforts. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
accord offers India, a declared nuclear state, access to U.S. civilian
nuclear technology while opening non-military Indian nuclear sites to
In testimony to the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns says
the agreement is key to advancing a common strategic vision with the
world's largest democracy and an emerging economic power.
some lawmakers have strong concerns about the pact, chiefly that the
extra fuel the accord provides could boost India's nuclear arsenal by
freeing up its domestic uranium for weapons. "I am still concerned that
this deal seriously undermines nonproliferation efforts, and could
contribute to an arms race that would have global implications," said
Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat.
Burns responded by saying that "there is no perfect guarantee, as you
know. But our conviction is that by moving in this direction, we are
deepening the incentive for India to focus on civilian nuclear energy
and deepening its incentive to continue to move into the mainstream of
the nonproliferation regime."
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana,
the top Republican on the committee, sought clarification on whether
the deal would be terminated if India tested a nuclear device.
India maintains a sovereign right to test, we most certainly maintain a
sovereign right to respond. We believe the Indian government intends
to uphold the continuation of the test moratorium it committed to in
2005," Burns replied.
Burns recalled Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice's statement in 2006 that should India test nuclear
weapons, the agreement would be called off.
If the House and
Senate do not approve the accord this month, lawmakers could return for
a so-called lame duck session after the November 4 elections to act on
the measure. If no action is taken, the agreement would await
consideration by a new Congress and president, but it is not clear
whether the pact would continue to be a priority.