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New Delhi watches Washington

Miranda Kennedy Dec 8, 2006


BRIAN WATT: It’s been an anxious week in India. A bunch of U.S. business leaders were there trying to improve trade relations. But for many Indian officials, the real action was back in Washington. They were waiting for Congress to unveil the final version of the India nuclear bill. That would allow India to purchase U.S. reactors and fuel for the first time three decades. The details of the bill came out last night. The House and the Senate are expected to vote today. This morning the reaction in India has been favorable as Miranda Kennedy reports from New Delhi.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: An earlier version of the India nuclear bill required that India back the U.S. in any confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.

But New Delhi called this a potential deal breaker, and together with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, began lobbying U.S. lawmakers this week to soften that provision.

It seems they succeeded. There was also success in getting the U.S. to remove terms that would have monitored and restricted India’s weapons program.

Political undersecretary Nick Burns said the changes aim to end the so called “nuclear apartheid,” and help India develop nuclear energy.

NICK BURNS: India, it’s true, has been kept out of the system. So we look at this as the liberation act of 2006 and 2007 for India’s civil nuclear power efforts.

When the President signs the bill into law, India looks likely to accept it. Then the question is whether the international community will follow America’s lead and recognize India as a nuclear power.

India’s Prime Minister will travel to Japan next week to request support in its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

In New Delhi, I’m Miranda Kennedy for Marketplace.

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