Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Nuclear update: 123 @ Senate

The Senate debated the 123 Agreement with India today and will likely vote on it in the evening. (i.e early morning on Oct 2 in India) Received wisdom is that it will pass quite comfortably. Two amendments to the legislation (and not the 123 text) passed by the House last week were moved but are not expected to win approval. Earlier, Condoleezza Rice wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go through with the process without amendments, saying the Administration would prefer a “clean legislation”.

“I understand that some Senators have questions about the impact of an Indian nuclear test on this initiative. We believe the Indian Government intends to uphold the continuation of the nuclear testing moratorium it affirmed to the United States in 2005 and reiterated to the broader international community as recently as September 5, 2008,” she said.

The PTI report says she also said that a nuclear test by India would result in “most serious consequences”, including automatic cut-off of U.S. cooperation as well as a number of other sanctions.

The following is extracted from an update sent literally on the fly by Daryl Kimball, who is following things closely. (There are typos which I have not attempted to correct; nor have I sought to ‘correct’ his views 🙂

Analysis of the Senate Debate

Earlier today, the Senate engaged in a brief but useful floor debate on the resolution of approval for the U.S.-Indian Agreement for Nuclear Cooperation and two common sense amendments offered Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) that would:

1) clarify that in the event that India resumes nuclear testing, it is the policy of the United States to terminate nuclear trade with India; and
2) require the President to review and implement applicable export control authorities for U.S. nuclear exports to other nuclear supplier nations that continue nuclear trade with India.

While the Senate will likely defeat the Dorgan-Bingaman amendment and approve the 123 agreement when it votes later this evening, the debate — and the remarks of bill managers Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) in particular — have already helped to clarify that there should be and will be consequences if India makes the mistake of resuming nuclear testing.

In their floor statements, Dodd’s and Lugar’s main point of contention with the Dorgan-Bingaman amendment was that is was unnecessary because the record and relevant U.S. laws require as much. Dodd and Lugar cited statements by the Secretary of State, section of the Henry Hyde Act, and State Department responses to questions for the record that strongly suggest that practical effect of applicable U.S. laws relating to nuclear trade with India — and the intention of Congress — is that the United States would terminate nuclear trade with India if it resumes nuclear testing for any reason and to seek the suspension of nuclear trade with India by any other supplier state. As Sen. Lugar stated it: “if India resumes testing, the 123 agreement is over.”

Adoption of the proposed amendment still makes sense because the U.S.-Indian 123 agreement, unlike all other U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements, does not make clear that a nuclear test would constitute cause for termination of U.S. nuclear trade and the resolution of approval does not state that it should be the policy of the United States to terminate nuclear trade India tests.

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This entry was posted on October 2, 2008 by in Nuclear Issues.

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