On the administration’s side is the U.S.-India Business Council, made up of Westinghouse, General Electric and more than 100 other large corporations. And even though Congress is out on its long August recess, Business Council President Ron Somers declared, “We’re mobilized. We are fully organized in terms of getting the word out to the districts of elected officials on how very important this is.”
At the State Department, spokeswoman Kelley Osterthaler said she had no comment on Berman’s position or on the administration’s plans for the deal going forward.
With a burgeoning population of 1.1 billion people and a rapidly expanding middle class, India is “obviously a very large nuclear market — one we are very much interested in,” said Vaughn Gilbert, a spokesman for Westinghouse, which sells small nuclear reactors on the international market.
Defense companies Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Textron have thrown their support behind the deal as well, hoping any resulting goodwill would translate into contracts for fighter jets and advanced computer weapons systems.
Somers addressed the opposition’s concerns, saying that even though India has produced hundreds of megawatts of nuclear power on its own, it has never proliferated nuclear technology beyond its borders. And without the development of nuclear energy, the country must rely on environmentally unfriendly coal power, he said.
Edmund Rice, president of the Coalition for Employment Through Exports, agrees with opponents that granting the exemption would mark a fundamental change for international nonproliferation efforts.
But since India already has nuclear materials, exemptions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group would at least bring India inside the international community of nations that trade in nuclear materials, Rice said. “All of these governments are going for the good over the perfect,” he said.