Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today regarding the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I appreciate the opportunity to speak in support of H.R.7081, the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act.
“I had the privilege to be serving as the Democratic Leader in the United States Senate in late 2006 when, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, we passed the Henry J. Hyde United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act, which laid out the specific steps that needed to be taken in order for our country to achieve a civilian nuclear agreement with the nation of India. At the time, I felt it was important for the Congress to pass the Hyde Act as a critical step in further strengthening the growing political, economic, and security partnership between the United States and India. Today, two years later, the Indian government has acted to meet the guidelines set forth in that piece of legislation, allowing us to consider H.R. 7081.
“After our two countries reached a consensus on the text of the nuclear cooperation pact this past July, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh faced a tough domestic battle to approve the agreement. However, his government worked diligently to form a coalition of supporters for the nuclear deal, and it eventually passed the Indian parliament. On Saturday, in the House, Democrats and Republicans approved H.R.7081 by a vote of 298 to 117. Now, we are here today to take the next step in approving this agreement and sending it to the President.
“As I did back in late 2006, I would like to remind my fellow Senators how important it is that we approve this measure to expand civilian nuclear cooperation with India. For much of the Cold War, America’s relationship with India—a leader in the movement of Non-Aligned countries—was too often characterized by ambivalence on both sides. But in the nearly twenty years since the walls that separated East from West have come down, our two countries have enjoyed an unprecedented level of engagement with one another that has proven truly beneficial for both parties. And the citizens of our two countries are increasingly interconnected through business, educational, and social linkages.
“India has emerged as one of the world’s most important leaders of the twenty-first century. India has experienced significant growth in the technological and service sectors, foreign investment has ballooned, and India has become a global center for cultural and artistic expression. The entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian people, coupled with their strong commitment to democratic values, has formed the backbone of a society whose potential for growth knows few boundaries.
“By voting for this agreement, the Senate will cement the gains that we have achieved in our bilateral relationship and open two of the world’s top scientific communities to the type of civilian nuclear cooperation befitting of our strong alliance.
I would like to thank my colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who, in conjunction with the Department of State, took the time to examine this agreement over the past two weeks. I am equally grateful to Senators Dorgan and Bingaman for their willingness to work with the Senate leadership on this important bill. As these two Senators, and others, have pointed out, we cannot undermine the nuclear nonproliferation regime’s decades of successes, and I appreciate the goals of the Dorgan-Bingaman amendment to ensure the strength of our continued commitments to the nonproliferation regime. I certainly understand the concerns expressed in their amendment, but I believe that this historic agreement provides the necessary safeguards and oversight to ensure that our nonproliferation objectives will be respected.
“I also am heartened by the repeated public and private commitments by officials of the U.S. government to upholding nonproliferation. Because of Senator Dorgan and Bingaman’s work, the Secretary of State stated in a letter to me today, which has been entered into the record, a clear commitment in the event of a nuclear test. Secretary Rice’s letter states: “We’ve been very clear with the Indians…should India test, as it has agreed not to do, or should India in any way violate the IAEA safeguard[s] agreements to which it would be adhering, the deal, from our point of view, would at that point be off.” With this commitment in hand, I am reluctant to vote for an amendment that I feel might jeopardize the important progress we have made over the past few years in securing this deal with the government of India. The strong and growing partnership between India and the United States must move forward, and I am proud that Senate passage of H.R. 7081 tonight will further deepen this partnership.
“In closing, I would like to remind my friends in the chamber that the United States is the proud home to a large and vibrant community of Indian-Americans—my state of Nevada being no exception. America is a country that was built on the strength of our immigrants, and the contributions of the nearly three million Indian-Americans currently living in the United States have enriched our society immeasurably. We in the Senate have a tremendous opportunity to show them our commitment to improving relations with the country of their ancestry. With that, I urge my colleagues to support this landmark agreement and vote to expand civilian nuclear cooperation between our great country and the world’s largest democracy.”