Washington: The powerful US Chamber of Commerce has come out in strong support of the Indo-US nuclear deal, saying a modest share of the potential $150 billion business could support 2,50,000 high-tech American jobs.
Asking the US Congress to approve the implementing 123 Agreement before its term expires by the end of this year, the "world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses of every size, sector and region" said the deal offered US companies a "tremendous opportunity".
The US administration too has touted the support of American business to win final Congress approval of the deal before President George W Bush leaves office next January if not before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh comes to visit him at the White House on September 25.
But with the administration and the Congress haggling over a $700 billion Bush proposal to rescues the US financial system from its biggest crisis, the deal is unlikely to be done before the Manmohan Singh visit despite bipartisan support for it in both chambers.
"With India's 34-year nuclear isolation now history, the opportunity for US companies today is tremendous, with an expected 30,000 to 60,000 MWe of new nuclear generating capacity by 2030, representing a potential $150 billion of new investment," the chamber chairman R Bruce Josten said in a letter to the Congress.
"If US companies are allowed to compete, a modest share of that business could support 250,000 high-tech American jobs," he wrote. "Moreover, the nuclear business would be a fraction of the broader commercial gain across all sectors after this foundation, established of mutual trust and respect, is laid."
Noting that "French and Russian firms are already working in India, yet US firms cannot engage until Congressional approval of the 123 Agreement", Josten said: "It is crucial that Congress act".
"Congress has a historic opportunity to strengthen the growing partnership between the world's oldest and largest democracies and support thousands of US jobs in the process," he said, strongly urging "the House and Senate to approve this historic initiative before the close of the 110th Congress."
The nuclear deal will bring India into the international nuclear non-proliferation mainstream and enhance the safety of India's civil programme.
The initiative will also help to revitalise the US nuclear industry and create thousands of high-tech American jobs, the letter from the chamber said, noting India's civil nuclear programme commenced operation when its first reactor, made by General Electric, began producing nuclear power in 1961.
Congress affirmed India's worthiness as a partner in civil nuclear trade in December 2006 when it passed the Henry J. Hyde United States India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act by overwhelming bipartisan margins, it noted.
Since then, sensitive issues relating to non-proliferation have been carefully considered and unanimously resolved by the 35 governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the 45 member nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the chamber said.
The Bush administration has also sought to sell the deal to US Congress advancing similar arguments in touting its non-proliferation, environmental and economic benefits that will accrue to both India and the US.
"The civil nuclear initiative enjoys strong support from US industry, and India's ambitious nuclear energy plans demonstrate why," Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on the deal last week.
Indian officials indicate they plan to import at least eight new 1,000 MW power reactors by 2012, and additional reactors in the years ahead, he said. Preliminary private studies suggest that even just two of these reactor contracts for US firms would add 3,000-5,000 new direct jobs, and about 10,000-15,000 indirect jobs in the United States, Burns said.
Calling the panel's attention to the strong "commercial letter" of intent US had negotiated with India, "which has been strongly endorsed by key US firms", the official said the key benefits of the initiative were "compelling".