India, US widen horizons as they seal ‘unprecedented’ nuclear deal (Intro Roundup)October 11th, 2008 - 10:53 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Oct 11 (IANS) As India and the US inked a historic and unprecedented civil nuclear deal after over three years of tortuous twists and turns, they also widened their horizons, looking far beyond a dramatic transformation of their bilateral relations.External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who signed the landmark deal here Friday, both lavished compliments on the vision of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush to bring about a paradigm shift in the relations between the two once-estranged democracies.
But it was clear that both had set their horizons wider. If Rice saw the agreement as unlocking “a new and far broader world of potential for our strategic partnership in the 21st century”, Mukherjee viewed it as opening the doors of nuclear trade “with the US and with the wider international community”.
So much so that Mukherjee even indicated that American firms should not expect any preferential treatment in getting a share of India’s $150 billion nuclear pie, as estimated by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) made up of top US firms seeking business with India.
“We look forward to working with US companies on the commercial steps that will follow to implement this landmark agreement,” he said at a press conference after signing the bilateral 123 Agreement. “It is also the first step to India’s cooperation with the rest of the world in civil nuclear energy,” he added.
“We are entering into civil nuclear cooperation with the United States, France and Russia and these are essentially commercial contacts and surely the commercial aspect will be taken into account,” Mukherjee said, even as he acknowledged “an expanding relationship with the US”.
The minister also declared that India was bound by only the 123 Agreement entered into by two sovereign nations as equals and expressed confidence that Washington too will implement it “in good faith” under international law.
“We intend to implement this Agreement in good faith and in accordance with the principles of international law and I am confident that the US will also do the same,” he said: asserting “Its provisions are now legally binding on both sides once the Agreement enters into force.”
“It’s not a merely a question of interpretation. It’s a question of agreed text, on which we are depending,” said Mukherjee when asked how much would the implementation depend on interpretation and how far foreign policy could be based on trust. His statement that India intended to implement the agreement “in good faith clearly implies we trust each other,” he added.
Asked if India was satisfied by Bush’s assurances on fuel supply, Mukherjee said the text of the 123 Agreement provides for fuel assurances and this had been reiterated by the president’s signing statement accompanying his assent to the US enabling law.
With this statement, he clearly sought to rest the controversy caused by a couple of new riders in the Congressional approval and Bush’s controversial message to the legislature that the nuclear fuel supply assurances in the 123 Agreement were “political commitments” and not “legally binding”.
Earlier, signing the 123 Agreement at an impressive ceremony in the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department at 4.16 p.m. Friday (1.46 a.m. Saturday India time), Rice called it “truly an historic occasion”.
“Many thought this day would never come. But doubts have been silenced now,” said the top US diplomat recalling the various twists and turns it had taken before coming to fruition 1,180 days after Bush and Manmohan Singh reached an understanding over it on July 18, 2005.
“And it demonstrates the vast potential partnership between India and the United States, potential that, frankly, has gone unfulfilled for too many decades of mistrust and now potential that can be fully realised,” said Rice.
Describing the agreement as “one more visible sign of the transformed relationship and partnership that our two countries are building together”, Mukherjee said in inking the accord “we implement the vision and understandings reached” by their leaders in July 2005 and March 2006.
Terming it “a diplomatic triumph for both our nations,” Rice said: “The world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy, drawn together by our shared values and increasingly by our many shared interests, now stand as equals, closer together than ever before.”
“…what is most valuable about this agreement is how it unlocks a new and far broader world of potential for our strategic partnership in the 21st century, not just on nuclear cooperation but on every area of national endeavour,” she noted.
“There is so much that our two great nations will achieve in this new century,” said Rice. “And with the conclusion of this civil nuclear agreement, our partnership will be limited only by our will and our imagination,” she added.