Presidential Tour Covers India's Past and Present

Don Gonyea is traveling with President Bush and talks to Steve Inskeep about the nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India, and the president's visit to a shrine honoring Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

That issue, what Congress will do, is one of the questions for NPR White House corrospondent Don Gonyea, who's been traveling with the president. And Don, why wouldn't American lawmakers give approval to this?

DON GONYEA reporting:

Well, the basic complaint is that this deal carves out a special exception for India. That it rewards India with those promises of technology and the steady supply of fuel for its civilian nuclear plants, but that it doesn't require that India sign that nuclear nonproliferation treaty--and that that's a bad precedent.

INSKEEP: And is there serious opposition likely?

GONYEA: There are members of Congress who've already said that they will not approve this deal. Obviously, the president is working with a working Republican majority, we'll just see how persuasive he's able to be.

INSKEEP: Now what made this deal so hard to negotiate? I understand the negotiations went into the final hours.

GONYEA: Exactly, and when we came to India, we were, uh-we were given a sense from the White House that it may not get done. They were really downplaying expectations. There are concerns about oversight-which plants would be covered? We still haven't seen an official list, so, though a State Department spokesman says it's about two thirds of India's nuclear plants. Also, just the details of separating the civilian nuclear power industry from the military nuclear program here got very complicated.

Now, each side, additionally, had to negotiate while being mindful of critics at home. In the U.S. again, there were calls fof a tougher line. In India, there was a complaint, as we just heard from Phillip, that the deal would just simply put too many restrictions on the country-so that's what was all being balanced.

INSKEEP: Don, you've covered many of these trips, and know very well, that they're often about symbolism as well as substance. Can you tell us about one of the presidents symbolic stops in this visit.

GONYEA: Yes, he came to India and today he visited the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial. It's the sight of Gandhi's cremation and there's an eternal flame there.

The president, accompanied by the First Lady, laid flower petals on the large black stone sureface of the memorial. The president also, as is tradition, removed his shoes before approaching the memorial as a sign of respect. It's an important thing for a president to do when he comes to India-is pay respect to Gandhi.

INSKEEP: Okay, thanks very much, Don.

GONYEA: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Don Gonyea. He's traveling with President Bush who is in New Delhi, India.

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