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Friday, March 03, 2006 | 2:08 PM

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"India couldn't have hoped for a better deal." - Amitabh Mattoo, vice chancellor of Jammu University

President Bush visited India this week and announced a new deal on shipments of nuclear material that could be used to make weapons. This apparently condradicts earlier attempts in Iraq to look hawkish on the nuclear issue, and critics conted it could make the Iran problem more difficult to deal with.

The deal would be illegal if India was a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and India has broken other agreements on nuclear shipments in the past. For example, Western countries agreed to supply nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, but it ended up enriching it and using it for its nuclear weapons program.

Bush was apparently unconcerned that this material, or byproducts of a subsequent arms race in Pakistan or China, could find its way into the hands of terrorists, or be used by an undemocratic regime to blackmail us. Instead, he called it "[a neccesary agreement] that will help both our peoples."

The agreement still needs to go through congress, who will need to change the requisite laws. The remaining question now is whether they will block it, or go along with the administration's plan.

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