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Democrat says US-India nuclear agreement breaks law Bush signed
Michael Roston
Published: Friday July 27, 2007

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A Democratic Congressman who has longed opposed greater US-India cooperation on nuclear energy technologies said a new agreement between the countries breaks a law signed by President George W. Bush at the end of 2006.

"If the US-India agreement is really consistent with the letter and spirit of the Hyde Act, as the administration claims, why won’t they release the text?" Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) asked in a statement released his office late on Friday.

President Bush signed the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Promotion Act in December. The bill was honorarily named after Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), who chaired the Committee on International Relations when it was concluded. The bill put a series of restrictions on concessions that the US was allowed to make to India in order to secure its cooperation with international safeguards on nuclear fuel supplies.

Markey went on to say that the Bush administration had something to hide.

"If they’re afraid of letting us read the document, then I can only surmise that it includes provisions they fear will raise the hackles of Congress," he added. "They’re turning the Hyde Act into the hide-and-go-seek act, but no level of diplomatic double-speak will stop Congress from investigating why India is claiming such enormous concessions."

The White House announced that it had concluded an agreement with India on nuclear fuel supplies in a brief statement Friday morning. Bush appeared mindful of clearing additional Congressional hurdles to the finalization of the agreement.

"I welcome the conclusion of negotiations on a bilateral agreement between the United States and India for peaceful nuclear cooperation," President George W. Bush said. "I commend those from both countries who have worked hard to make this deal happen, and I look forward to working with Congress to realize this important initiative."

Critics of the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement warn that it promotes the proliferation of nuclear weapons because it allows India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to gain nuclear fuel. Currently, all states except China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and the US must forswear nuclear weapons to access civilian nuclear technology. India, Pakistan, and Israel are the only three states that have refused to sign the treaty. North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2005.

Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, defended the agreement's contribution to promoting nonproliferation in a Friday press conference.

"This deal now brings India, soon to be the world's largest country, back into the nonproliferation mainstream in a way it was not before," Burns argued.

But he seemed to admit that the agreement granted considerable flexibility to both the US and India.

"When you write an agreement the way we have, and when you have legions of lawyers on both sides of the table, you also build in protection -- both sides do -- to meet your legal obligations," he stated.

The Washington Times took another interpretation of the text of the agreement, suggesting that it was vague.

"The most recent agreement between Washington and New Delhi, negotiated last week, was deliberately written in a way that can be interpreted differently by the two sides, said congressional officials who were briefed by State Department officials but did not see a copy of the text," Nicholas Kralev reported on Friday.

Contrasting statements seemed to bear our Kralev's reporting. Burns argued that if India were to test a nuclear weapon again, the US could demand the return of nuclear fuel it had supplied to India's civilian energy sector.

"If there is ever any reason for the United States to have to invoke the right of return, we could certainly do so," he said.

But according to India's Economic Times, the country's leaders claimed it was not bound by any restrictions regarding nuclear testing.

National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan said that the compromise "managed to resolve the issue of nuclear testing by allowing India to retain its voluntary moratorium and by avoiding any reference to testing or detention in the text of the agreement."

Markey was critical of the apparent vagueness of the agreement. He sent a letter with 23 additional Congressmembers on Wednesday warning that the agreement would not be supported by Congress if it was not consistent with the Hyde Act.

And he suggested that the Bush administration might have broken the law.

"Of course the Administration will argue that they aren’t breaking the law, but I think that folks up on the Hill have become increasingly skeptical of the Administration’s legal arguments," Markey noted in his Friday statement.

In December, RAW STORY reported on a 'presidential signing statement' issued by President Bush after he signed the Hyde Act into law. In the statement, Bush repudiated several key provisions of the bill, stating that he considered them advisory.