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Sep 20, 2008 at 04:35pm IST

US Senate debates Ndeal before Manmohan visit

Washington: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is headed to New York on Monday with every indication that by the time he reaches Washington, the 123 Agreement will have been taken up at the US Congress. However, this is still easier said than done.

In his opening statement, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd raised a concern shared by US Senators - How can the Bush administration guarantee that India will not use American fuel supplies to test a nuclear weapon and whether Washington can demand a return of its stock?

Senator Chris Dodd said, "The United States should have the right to require the return of any nuclear materials if India detonates a nuclear explosive device."

Some senators also questioned Bush's commitments in case India tests.

Senator Russ Feingold said, "By opening the door to providing nuclear supplies to India we are freeing up local fuel supplies for India's nuclear weapons programme."

Top State Department official, William Burns, who testified at the agreement admitted that there was "no perfect" guarantee that India won't test. But he insisted that the Bush Administration believes that India will uphold its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing.

However, if India breaks its promise, Washington will have the right to penalise New Delhi.

US Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Rood said, "If India tests, as it has agreed not to do, the deal from our point of view be at that point, off."

Senators also raised other controversial questions including whether other countries could continue fuel supplies to India even if Washington terminated its exports and India's growing military relationship with Iran.

With two of the three weeks of the short Congressional calendar now over, the possibility of an expedited Congressional approval next week remains the topic of intense speculation in Washington.

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