India, US expected to ink 123 pact Saturday

October 3rd, 2008 - 8:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi/Washington, Oct 3 (IANS) India and the US are expected to sign their landmark civilian nuclear cooperation accord, which has been in the making for over three years, after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee holds talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice here Saturday. Rice and Mukherjee are likely to formally ink the 123 bilateral agreement at Hyderabad House - a historic moment that will mark the restoration of civilian nuclear commerce between India and the US after a gap of 34 years.

Rice, who arrives here Saturday morning, will also call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discuss with him steps to implement commitments in the 123 pact and ways to expand bilateral relationship in the aftermath of the landmark accord.

“They will discuss a wide range of issues, including the US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative, trade, counter-terrorism, human rights, religious freedom, and education,” state department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

Rice, who was the first to hint at a nuclear energy deal during her visit to India in March 2005, will also meet the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani.

Both Indian and American officials, however, have yet to officially confirm whether the 123 pact will be formally inked during Rice’s day-long visit to India.

“In all likelihood, it will be signed. Keep your fingers crossed,” an Indian official source said in New Delhi.

“Arrangements are being made for the signing of the 123 agreement. It will take us a day or two to finalize these arrangements,” US ambassador to India David Mulford, also a key interlocutor for the nuclear deal, told reporters here Thursday at his residence, Roosevelt House.

“There is a high probability that it will be signed soon,” Mulford said after the Senate approved the nuclear deal by an overwhelming vote late Wednesday night.

US President George W. Bush is likely to make a presidential signing statement later Friday night.

Ahead of her visit, Rice underlined that the India-US civil nuclear deal was a part of a much broader framework for enduring friendship between the two countries and reflected the emergence of India on the global stage.

Rice will head to Kazakhstan Sunday after wrapping up her day-long visit to India.

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