”I’d urge my Indian buddies to take a look at how important the general assist was.’
IMAGE: Then US Vice President Joe Biden,LLeft with then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh after which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a luncheon on the State Department in Washington, DC November 24, 2009. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters
This interview was first printed on Rediff.com on December 4, 2006.
Senator Joseph Biden, the rating Democrat on the highly effective Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the driving power behind the Senate’s overwhelming adoption on November 16, 2006 — by a margin of 85 for to 12 in opposition to — of the enabling laws (S. 3709) to facilitate the US-India civilian nuclear settlement he co-authored with the Committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.
In an unique interview with Rediff India Abroad Managing Editor Aziz Haniffa, Biden offers an inside view of the behind-the-scenes negotiations earlier than the Senate vote, the considerations over some amendments, and his optimism that the House-Senate convention to reconcile each payments won’t pose an issue.
Were you shocked by the large margin of votes in favour of the invoice?
No, I wasn’t. Not in any respect. I had labored on it very laborious.
I had been speaking with my colleagues for the earlier month and I had labored out an settlement the place even those that had amendments, who did not prefer it (the invoice), weren’t going to delay it.
Initially my concern was that the Republican management was enjoying a recreation of not bringing it up, in order that they might play the blame recreation and I used to be frightened that a number of Democrats would possibly take part and take the chance to kill the treaty.
So I spent quite a lot of time with these Democrats and Republicans who had amendments that have been in opposition to the treaty — the so-called killer amendments — and I used to be assured by this time final week (per week earlier than the invoice was taken up on the Senate ground) that I had it labored out.
So when Senators [Jeff] Bingaman, [Byron] Dorgan, [Russ] Feingold, and [Barbara] Boxer introduced of their amendments, you have been anticipating them, regardless of all of your negotiations with them?
Yes, I used to be anticipating these, however I had bought an settlement from them that they might not use all of the parliamentary techniques out there to them to gradual this down.
If you observed, every of these amendments have been provided very swiftly — they weren’t delayed and so I used to be fairly positive that I had the votes.
The most tough vote was after I had to go into secret session to tackle a killer modification provided by the Republicans — particularly by the Senator from Nevada, [John] Ensign.
Because it was a secret session, I didn’t need to focus on it.
[But] it is uncommon, as , for the Senate to go right into a secret session [during a floor debate and vote], and we spent an hour and 20 minutes there.
When we went into that assembly, I did not suppose we had the votes to defeat it, however I argued the purpose for about an hour and 10 minutes.
I used to be pleasantly shocked [to see it defeated].
I used to be additionally pleasantly shocked by the dimensions of the margin [by which] the Boxer modification on Iran [was defeated].
I used to be assured we’d beat all the opposite ones — and I believed we may beat all Boxer too — [but] I wasn’t in any respect positive concerning the one which was a shock to me — the amendments provided by the Senator from Nevada, Ensign.
IMAGE: Then US Vice President Joe Biden delivers an handle on the Bombay Stock Exchange, July 24, 2013. Photograph: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
I consider Ensign’s modification had to do with the Additional Protocol, however did this have any relevance to the enabling laws to facilitate the nuclear deal? Wasn’t the one concern that Ensign had put the invoice on maintain and threatened not to permit it to come on the ground until the Additional Protocol was faraway from the invoice?
Well, it did have to do with the Additional Protocol.
But had his modification been hooked up to the laws, India wouldn’t have been in a position to settle for it and, I consider, it could have prompted the treaty to disintegrate for my part.
Didn’t his modification have one thing to do with not wanting International Atomic Energy Agency inspection of US services as a result of he and the opposite conservative Republicans feared that a few of these worldwide inspection groups may embody spies from unfriendly nations.
Because it was a secret session, I’m not going to discuss that on the report in any element.
You mentioned you had reached an understanding with individuals like Bingaman, Dorgan, Feingold, Boxer.
The understanding I had was that, go forward and make your case — make the most effective case you’ll be able to as rapidly as you’ll be able to however don’t strive to kill this by filibustering or extending the controversy and provides the Republican Majority Leader (Senator Bill Frist) an excuse to pull the invoice down.
Because, as you recall, the toughest a part of my getting it up, (Frist) stored saying that until I may assure him it might be executed in half a day he would not carry it up.
There was no means it might be executed in half a day however I used to be frightened that it’d take three or 4 days.
So I labored very laborious with my Democratic colleagues they usually understand how a lot I cared about this they usually believed I had the votes — that 4 of them mainly mentioned, ‘OK, we’ll make our case straight-forwardly and in case you beat us we’ll go away.
‘ So that is what we did and that is why we picked an necessary modification first to exhibit we may beat it — in order that it could construct momentum.
I used to be not shocked by the ultimate end result.
The solely two votes that shocked me by way of the extent of assist we bought was on the Ensign Amendment and the Boxer Amendment relating to Iran.
Did Bingaman, Dorgan and Feingold — who have been making an attempt to get India to cease producing fissile materials if the US supplied it with nuclear gas and nuclear expertise — see that they didn’t have the votes to push their amendments via?
I do. I feel they noticed the truth that I had the votes and due to this fact they might… And additionally, , one of many issues is that I’ve been main the international coverage combat for the Democrats for a very long time they usually had little interest in doing any hurt to a place I’d taken.
In different phrases, there’s a sense of collegiality – that they knew how necessary I believed it was.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi with then US Vice President Joe Biden. Photograph: Narendra Modi/Twitter
The Boxer Amendment scared lots of people each within the Indian-American neighborhood and the pro-India foyer in enterprise and business. They noticed it as looking for a Presidential certification that India doesn’t have army relations with Iran, which the US sees as a pariah, if India was deemed an exception to the Atomic Energy Act and provided it with nuclear gas and expertise.
Were you and others who have been combating for the invoice afraid this was the mom of all killer amendments, one that would really carry the invoice down? Also, is the Iran bogey going to hang-out this deal?
As I mentioned earlier, I knew we may defeat the Boxer Amendment, however what shocked me was the margin we had in opposition to it.
But, oh sure, it’ll (Iran will proceed to hang-out US-India relations).
If, God forbid, India determined it was in its pursuits to attain a extra sturdy army settlement with Iran, that will be sufficient to destroy the connection however this settlement and all the pieces else.
That would bitter issues very a lot.
(But) I do not anticipate that to occur.
India has been good, as I identified within the debate.
In each the IAEA board of governors and the United Nations Security Council, India joined us on the nuclear aspect (together with the European Community to isolate Iran for its alleged clandestine nuclear weapons programme).
And, as I identified, there’s completely no proof that India has transferred any expertise and/or deadly weapons to Iran.
Also, there isn’t a proof that they’ve transferred any army functionality that enables the federal government in Tehran to assist terrorism.
If they did, it could be very tough.
Isn’t India’s relationship with Iran going to create some issues within the convention? Even Congressman Tom Lantos — the co-author of the laws and the driving power behind the House invoice being accepted so overwhelmingly — merely goes ballistic when the slightest potential cooperation between India and Iran is introduced to his consideration?
Since we defeated the (Boxer) Amendment handily within the Senate, I don’t suppose I’m going to have to settle for any modification relating to Iran (in convention).
There is one modification we accepted on Iran (the Senator Tom Harkin modification that India would assist the US isolate Iran for its alleged clandestine uranium enrichment programme in defiance of its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligation).
We consider we are able to make it higher in committee and it could not be a killer modification.
But the Boxer Amendment, for lots of sophisticated causes, would have been a killer modification.
Nicholas Burns (the underneath secretary of state for political affairs and chief US negotiator of the US-India deal) informed a bunch of us that the administration is extraordinarily happy with the overwhelming passage of the Senate invoice and that each the House and Senate payments conform to the settlement the administration negotiated with the Indians.
But India is having issues with components of the Senate laws, notably vis-a-vis a number of the required Presidential certifications, and so on. Is that is the most effective we have? Has India simply bought to stay with this and never make waves?
It’s not solely the most effective we have, I feel it is good. There is nothing materials in that laws that ought to trigger the Indians, aside from for political causes, to have any concern concerning the ratification.
I feel we have been in a position to sew collectively this overwhelming assist.
I’d urge my Indian buddies to take a look at how important the general assist was.
Three months in the past, I made the purpose very strongly that, from a tactical standpoint, will probably be significantly better to have this vote so overwhelming with the language we now have than have even higher language with 51 votes.
This is a course of. This is a strategy of reconstructing nearly from scratch, constructing a relationship with that necessary nation on the earth, India.
For us, that’s simply going to have to be constructed continuously on confidence constructing measures. This is a crucial piece of that.
Part 2: ‘My dream is that the 2 closest nations on the earth will probably be India and the United States’