Washington: A key US Senate committee yesterday gave initial approval to a sweeping civilian nuclear cooperation deal with India, hailing it as the cornerstone of ties with an important new ally.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed bipartisan legislation endorsing the deal and setting rules for final approval on a 16 to 2 vote, with little wrangling over non-proliferation concerns that had dogged earlier debate over the agreement.
The agreement with India, often a US adversary during the Cold War, "is the most important strategic diplomatic initiative undertaken by President [George W.] Bush", said the legislation's prime sponsor, Republican Committee Chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana.
A separate Bill was passed on Tuesday by the House of Representatives International Relations Committee. Each chamber must now approve its own Bill, then reconcile the competing versions and take a final vote, which proponents anticipate in July.