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Harry Reid: US senate powerhouse who rescued the Indian nuclear deal

Harry Reid: US senate powerhouse who rescued the Indian nuclear deal

Many people played varying degrees of crucial roles in the signing and legislating of the landmark civil nuclear deal that changed the trajectory of the India-US relationship. US senator Harry Reid, the once powerful Democrat who passed away on Tuesday, played an incomparable part in it. “There would have been no civil nuclear deal without senator Reid’s early support and his shepherding of the deal through the Senate,” said Richard Verma, the former American ambassador to India who worked as a congressional foreign affairs aide to senator Reid at the time. Reid first played a critical role in December 2006 when he rescued from near death a legislation allowing then President George W Bush to negotiate a nuclear deal with India, which, in turn, would facilitate the resumption of nuclear trade with India after more than three decades. As the incoming majority leader of the chamber - Democrats had won control of the chamber in the November mid-term elections - Reid had prioritised the passage of the legislation. If not passed before the new Congress took over in January, the bill would have had to restart the long and tortuous passage rites. “That would have killed the bill,” said Ramesh Kapur, a leading Democratic strategist recalling Reid’s role in the passage of the bill. He had a ring-side view of the passage of the bill, which was aided and facilitated by the combined clout of Indian-Americans like him. Harry Reid had promised to put the bill on “automatic pilot” so that it may be taken up as “the first order of business” after the break, when it met during the lame-duck session, which is typically a session that take place between an election and formal start of the next congress. Verma said, recalling those heady days, “He even convened a rare classified session of the Senate so senators could debate the arrangements under consideration. He told me several times how important the deal was and how it would transform US-India ties. He was absolutely right.” This is a modal window. Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window. End of dialog window. This is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button. The deal did, in fact, change India-US ties. First announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush in July 2005, the deal went into effect in 2008 and those it has not led to any real trade in nuclear supplies between the two countries yet, it put ties on an upward trajectory, and rising. Two years later, in December 2008, the deal got the final approval from US Congress with Reid at the head of the Senate. Harry Reid died on Tuesday at age 82. He had struggled for years with pancreatic cancer. Once a boxer, he was known for his pugnacious politics during his five terms in the Senate ending in 2016, when he retired. He was a quintessential Washington DC powerhouse and power-player who may even have set Barack Obama for the presidency asking a “stunned” first-time senator from Illinois in 2006 to seriously consider a run. After the senate vote on November 17, 2006, Reid spoke of his fondness for India and Indian-Americans to a group of Indian-Americans who had been lobbying him, his office and other senators, especially those who had seemed wobbly about their vote. Kapur was among them and remembers - “being a Punjabi” - giving Reid a celebratory hug. Reid spoke to the group about a group of Indian students he had befriended years ago as he gave them a ride on their way to their college. Some of them, Kapur remembers Reid noting, wore “slippers”. As a parting gift - along with “five” Indian meals - the Indian students gave Reid a snow globe with an image of Mahatma Gandhi inside it. The senator kept it on his desk for years after and Kapur remembers noticing it. “100% true,” said Verma. It was “there on his bookcase in the leader’s office till his very last day in the Senate”..

world-news 2021-12-31 hindustantimes