Wednesday, July 23, 2008

U.S. India Nuclear Deal Post-Confidence Vote Update

As expected, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh survived Tuesday’s confidence vote. Singh secured 275 votes while his opponents managed 256. There were 10 abstentions. As I noted last week, the vote was marked by all sorts of questionable shenanigans, including the renaming of an airport after a key lawmakers’ father and the temporary release of a number of jailed lawmakers – some of them convicted murderers – so they could take part in the vote.

Needless to say, these tactics did not endear Singh to his opponents:

At one point, legislators from the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party waved wads of cash in the air, saying the Congress Party and its allies had tried to bribe them to stay away from the vote. The ruckus forced a temporary adjournment of the house.
With the confidence vote out of the way, the IAEA Board of Governors is scheduled to take up the India-specific safeguards agreement on August 1, after which the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), must exempt India from international rules barring nuclear trade with non-NPT signatories. Once these two steps have been completed, the U.S. Congress will be free to vote on the final U.S.-India 123 agreement.

With time running out to complete the deal before Congress is set to adjourn on September 26, both the Singh government and the Bush administration are ready to push hard to rush the deal through the NSG and Congress.

Commenting on the recent developments in a conference call with reporters yesterday, David Mulford, the U.S. ambassador to India, stated:
The US has been ready and is now geared up… We are very actively on our way… We hope we can be in a position to send the legislation to Congress in early September.
For this to happen, the NSG would have to complete its deliberations on the deal by the end of August, an incredibly short time-frame given that at least two NSG sessions are likely to be necessary. However, even in the unlikely event that Congress does take up the 123 agreement in early September, a lame-duck session would almost certainly be required, as Congress must be in continuous session for at least 30 days (or 45, depending on who you talk to) in order to take action on the agreement. For the moment, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has all but ruled out the possibility of a lame-duck session.

For more on why we think rushing the deal is a terrible idea, see here and here.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

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