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House OK's India Nuclear Deal

Prepared by: Esther Pan
Updated: July 27, 2006

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The House overwhelmingly approves the U.S.-India nuclear deal, but the Senate is not expected to vote until September (Reuters). Controversy over the deal—explained in this Backgrounder—persists, in part because it was negotiated by the leaders of both governments without broad consultation with their legislative branches. But most Indians see the deal as a positive step for their nation’s rising ambitions. The Times of India says, “What is involved is not just a nuclear deal between India and the United States but a restructuring of the international system incorporating India in the global balance of power.” Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, and Teresita Schaffer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies debate the merits of the deal in this Online Debate.

The deal has faced widespread opposition from nonproliferation experts, six of whom wrote a letter to Congress (PDF) saying the commitments India makes under the deal do not justify the changes to the international nonproliferation regime required to make it happen. George Perkovich, a leading expert on India's nuclear program, says the deal is good for U.S.-Indian relations but the details in the draft accord were "very under-cooked and not well-considered." Carnegie nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione slams the deal, saying it “endorses and assists India’s nuclear weapons program” and was not properly reviewed by the State Department or Energy Department not properly reviewed by the State Department or Energy Department before being announced by President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March.

In this CFR special report, Michael A. Levi and Charles D. Ferguson say Congress should approve the deal while withholding final approval to make sure nonproliferation concerns are met as the details are worked out. But Singh has warned Congress India will not accept any new conditions on the deal (BBC).

Experts who defend the deal say it is a major breakthrough that marks a new relationship with a rising world power. Former U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill, who pushed hard for the deal, called it "a major departure for American foreign policy." Carnegie Senior Associate Ashley Tellis, who also worked on the deal, says it crowns a new relationship between the United States and India that is crucial to U.S. interests.

This Power and Interest News report notes the deal was struck after the United States had already declared its intention to help India become a world power. And Seema Gahlaut and Anupam Srivastava of the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia argue in this report (PDF) that India has instituted a strong system of nuclear export controls, comparable to that demanded by international treaties.

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