NYT dubs India-US nuclear deal ‘ill-conceived’


New York : Critics of the India-US civil nuclear deal have gathered a little more steam with an influential daily looking approvingly at questions raised by three lawmakers about what it called an “ill-conceived” deal.

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“The Bush administration and the American business community have been hoping for a swift, rubber-stamp approval of their ill-conceived nuclear trade deal with India,” the New York Times said in an editorial Saturday. “Luckily, some members of Congress, and some American allies, are finally asking questions.”

“Congress was far too uncritical when it gave preliminary approval to the agreement in December… Now some members of Congress are beginning to raise doubts about the deal,” it said referring to a non-binding resolution introduced in the House of Representatives last week.

Introduced by a Democrat and two Republicans, the proposal would be what is called “a sense of the House resolution”, the daily noted. “But by highlighting bipartisan concerns, it should bolster sceptics in” the Nuclear Suppliers Group that must change its rules before India and US can resume nuclear trade.

These sceptics “rightfully fear that the agreement could benefit New Delhi’s weapons programme as much as its pursuit of nuclear power, while making it even harder to rein in the ambitions of nuclear wannabes, including Iran”, the Times said.

The resolution would urge the administration to answer key questions such as why an implementing (123) agreement, completed in July, seems so at odds with the law Congress approved last December, it said referring to the enabling Hyde Act.

“Aiming to keep critics in both capitals off-balance, American and Indian officials have offered conflicting interpretations about whether – as the law demands, but the agreement fudges – the United States would cut off trade and fuel deliveries if the Indians test another nuclear weapon,” the Times suggested.

The resolution also instructs the administration to ensure that NSG adopts specific conditions that would require all member states to halt nuclear trade with India if New Delhi tests a weapon, it said. And it would ban member states from transferring equipment that can make nuclear fuel for a reactor or a weapon.

“If the suppliers’ group fails to set these conditions, it will be far too easy for New Delhi to do an end-run around Washington and buy technology and fuel from states that are even more eager to make a buck,” the Times suggested.

“President George Bush is right when he says that the United States needs to develop strong ties with democratic India,” it said. “But he erred in making a nuclear deal the centrepiece of that relationship.

“And he erred by being so eager for a deal that sufficient thought wasn’t given to its implications. Now it’s up to Congress and other countries to try to limit the damage,” the Times concluded.