India, US to sign 123 pact ‘very soon’ (Roundup)

October 4th, 2008 - 10:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Oct 4 (IANS) India and the US Saturday affirmed that they would sign their nuclear agreement “shortly” even as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice underlined that there were “no open issues” and that Washington would abide by its commitments in the 123 pact and the Hyde Act.Rice also assured that President George W. Bush will sign the Congress legislation on the nuclear deal “very soon” after “administrative details” are completed.

The two countries have deferred the signing of the “historic” 123 pact to a “mutually convenient” time that will be decided later on.

American officials, however, have privately expressed “unhappiness” that the deal could not be signed despite Rice coming to New Delhi for this purpose.

“I don’t want anyone to think we have open issues. These are administrative matters,” Rice told reporters when she was asked whether the signing of the 123 agreement has been delayed due to India’s “concerns” over certain provisions in the Congress’ law.

Rice was speaking at a joint press conference with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee after they held talks for around 90 minutes on a wide range of issues, including UN reforms, terrorism, trade, climate change and the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mukherjee also hosted a lunch for Rice Saturday afternoon.

Rice, who was on a day-long visit here, Saturday evening called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who hosted a dinner for her, during which he “profusely thanked” her for her efforts in steering the nuclear deal through the US Congress. She also called on Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani.

“The president will sign the legislation (passed by the US Congress) very soon. He wants to do it very soon. There are administrative details,” Rice said at the press conference in response to a question from IANS, indicating that the signing remains a mere legal formality.

“It’s been a busy time (due to the financial crisis in the US). The bill has to be encoded and transmitted to the White House,” Rice, a key US interlocutor for the nuclear deal, replied while lauding the India-US civil nuclear deal as “a historic agreement and a historic achievement”.

“The Hyde Act is consistent with the 123 agreement and the 123 agreement is consistent with the Hyde Act,” she said when asked whether the presidential statement will address some of New Delhi’s concerns over fuel supplies.

Bush is expected to sign the enabling legislation, which will restart nuclear commerce between the two countries, early next week. Mukherjee may travel to the US for the formal signing of the 123 pact.

“The civil nuclear energy initiative is now in its last lap. We look forward to signing our 123 agreement and bringing it into effect soon,” Mukherjee said while lauding Rice as a true friend and trusted partner of India who had played a key role in promoting nuclear entente between the two countries. The two sides will move on to commercial arrangements after the deal is signed.

The two could not agree on the signing of the 123 pact as India insisted it would do so only after a presidential signing statement addressing some of New Delhi’s lingering concerns over fuel supply that flowed from contrary statements coming from Washington, official sources said.

The American side insisted right till the end on sealing the deal, but New Delhi prevailed.

The Indian insistence on deferring the signing till the presidential statement has left Americans “unhappy”, an American diplomatic source told IANS.

Describing the nuclear deal as “a transformational event” in India-US relations, Mukherjee underlined that this agreement has “opened doors” for India to enter into global nuclear trade with the world.

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