The Senate last night approved a historic agreement that opens up nuclear trade with India for the first time since New Delhi conducted a nuclear test three decades ago, giving the Bush administration a significant foreign policy achievement in its final months.
The bill, which passed 86 to 13, goes to President Bush for his signature, handing the chief executive a rare victory that both advocates and foes say will reverberate for decades. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who conceived of the deal, have pushed hard for it from the earliest weeks of the president's second term.
The agreement, which sparked fierce opposition from nuclear proliferation experts, acknowledges India as a de facto nuclear power, even though it has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. India until now has been barred from worldwide nuclear trade, leaving its homegrown industry hobbled and short of uranium fuel to run its reactors. The administration said the deal would bring a substantial portion of India's nuclear industry -- though not the facilities that produce materials for weapons -- under international observation.