Bush allays Indian concerns as he signs historic n-deal law (Leadall)

October 9th, 2008 - 10:06 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghWashington, Oct 9 (IANS) President George W. Bush has signed a historic law on the India-US civil nuclear deal with an assertion that it does not change American commitments on nuclear fuel assurances and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.”By undertaking new cooperation on civil nuclear energy, India will be able to count on a reliable fuel supply for its civilian reactors,” said Bush as he signed into law the Congressional approval of what he called a “big deal” at 2:34 p.m. Wednesday (0:04 a.m. IST Thursday) at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

An accompanying presidential statement made it more explicit to allay India’s concerns on the two critical issues. “The legislation does not change the terms of the 123 Agreement as I submitted it to the Congress,” said Bush.

It simply enabled him to bring the bilateral agreement “into force and to accept on behalf of the United States the obligations contained in the Agreement.”

“For our part, the United States will gain access to a growing market for civilian nuclear technologies and materials, that will help American businesses create more jobs for our people here at home,” he said of the deal that is expected to generate $150 billion nuclear trade.

Describing Prime Minster Manmohan Singh as a “dear friend,” Bush said the Congressional approval of the accord “marks another major milestone in achieving the vision” that the Indian leader and he had “set forth on July 18, 2005, to transform the relationship between our two countries and to establish a strategic partnership.”

With the enabling law in place, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will formally ink the 123 agreement here Friday,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack announced hours before Bush signed the bill.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Rice, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen and US Ambassador to India David Mulford were among a select gathering witnessing the signing ceremony at the White House.

Also attending were prominent members of the Indian-American community, captains of industry, lawmakers, diplomats and officials, who played a major role in getting the deal through the Congress in less than a month after the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) gave India a waiver on nuclear trade.

“I appreciate the supporters of the US-India Nuclear Civil Agreement that are here today,” he said of the US enabling law. “All in all, welcome. This is a-it’s a big deal.”

“Even though the United States and India are separated by half the globe, we are natural partners as we head into the 21st century, said Bush noting, “Both our nations emerged from a colonial past to establish vibrant democracies.”

Despite common interests and values, he said: “it was not long ago that relations between the United States and India were strained,” said Bush adding, “In recent years, we’ve worked to transform our relationship into a strong strategic partnership.”

“So three years ago, Prime Minister Singh - who I consider a dear friend - and I resolved to work together on a landmark agreement paving the way for our nations to cooperate on nuclear power,” he said.

“This legislation represents more than three years of hard work by a lot of people,” Bush said expressing appreciation for “the work of the Indian-American leaders from across the nation.”

He also thanked the members of the US Congress “for working hard on this piece of legislation” saying he was “especially grateful” to the Congressional leadership “who worked hard to make sure this bill made it through both Houses at the very end of the session” before the lawmakers took a break for the Nov 4 election.

Once the 123 agreement is signed, Bush is also required to certify that the accord is consistent with US obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and that it is the policy of the US to work with members of the NSG to further restrict transfers of equipment and technology related to uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

After these certifications, India and the US will exchange diplomatic notes pursuant to Article 16(1) of the 123 Agreement, the last procedural step that will turn the historic nuclear deal into reality.

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