Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flies to India on Friday after helping
secure a foreign policy victory for the Bush administration with Senate approval
of the U.S.-India nuclear cooperation accord. Rice is also scheduled to visit
Kazakhstan during the brief foreign trip. VOA's David Gollust reports from the
The 86 to 13
U.S. Senate vote late Wednesday ended a difficult legislative process in
Washington and New Delhi for the nuclear deal, which Rice says will be a
cornerstone for a new relationship.
The agreement opens India's
non-military nuclear facilities to international inspections and clears the way
to U.S. sales of nuclear fuel and technology to India, even though it has tested
weapons and not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
government barely survived a parliamentary confidence vote over the deal in
July, while the Bush administration had to overcome heavy initial resistance to
the accord in Congress and by international nuclear agencies.
At a State
Department celebration on Thursday, Rice hailed the agreement as a historic
"It is an agreement that cements an effort that we've
been making for some time to bring together the world's largest democracy with
the world's oldest continuous democracy," said Secretary Rice. "And we believe
that the relationship between the United States and India is on a very firm
footing, and that can only be good for democracy and it can only be good for the
Rice was joined at the event by Congressional leaders, including
Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, who helped overcome misgivings among
Democrats about the non-proliferation implications of the accord.
senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the political
importance of the accord transcends the nuclear issue.
"There has been
this sort of unspoken but realized tension over the past 35 years or so that we
needed to get beyond," said Senator Dodd. "And certainly, given the neighborhood
in which India resides, given the tremendous issues that this century is going
to pose for those who come long after we've finished our work here, this
agreement will serve, I think, as a foundation, a bedrock, for these two great
Senate approval did not end U.S. criticism of the accord,
with the head of Washington's private Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball,
calling it a "non-proliferation disaster".
Opponents say the deal creates
an exception from non-proliferation scrutiny for India, and that it sets a bad
precedent amid efforts to get Iran to end a nuclear program that is believed
But Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central
Asia Richard Boucher says the accord is a unique agreement based on an exemplary
Indian record on nuclear issues, as opposed to across-the-board Iranian
violations of commitments to the International Atomic Energy
"It's really based on India's track record and India's track
record on non-proliferation is very good," said Richard Boucher. "India has been
a responsible member of the international nuclear community in terms of their
own controls. They've put in more controls and more responsible behavior, more
commitments as they've negotiated this agreement. And I think the India
agreement stands on its own."
Boucher brushed aside a call on Thursday by
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for a similar nuclear agreement
with Washington, saying the United States will help Pakistan with its own energy
needs, but "in a different way".