Oct 2, 2008

India - Nuclear tests will have serious consequences;Rice

Washington: Faced with killer amendments tabled by two Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that a nuclear test by India would result in the “most serious consequences,” including automatic cut-off of U.S. cooperation as well as a number of other sanctions.

As the Senate began a debate on the legislation that will approve the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, Ms. Rice wrote a letter, urging 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 Senate was originally expected to consider the Dorgan and Bingaman amendments pertaining to implications in the event of India conducting a nuclear test. But on the floor, while taking amendments, North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan said the two amendments would be merged. If adopted, it would ensure that the U.S. ceased nuclear cooperation with India in the event of its detonating a nuclear weapon.

Appreciating Mr. Reid’s consideration of the Bill “within such an extraordinary time frame,” Ms. Rice said they would not be asking for such exceptional action if they did not believe it was necessary to complete an initiative on which both the administration and Congress had worked very hard and on a thoroughly bi-partisan basis since 2005.

“Let me reassure you that an Indian test, as I have testified publicly, would result in most serious consequences. Existing U.S. law would require automatic cut-off of cooperation, as well as a number of other sanctions, if India were to test. After 60 continuous session days, the President could waive the termination of cooperation if he determined that the cut-off would be ‘seriously prejudicial’ to U.S. non-proliferation objectives or ‘otherwise jeopardise the common defence and security’,” Mr. Rice told Senator Reid.

She said encouraging India’s sustained commitment to its moratorium on nuclear testing would be important to the strategic partnership Washington sought to build with New Delhi. Congress and the administration had carefully addressed testing concerns in the Hyde Act, the U.S.-India 123 Agreement, and the testimony of administration officials, she said. — PTI

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