Historic n-deal is done; Rice, Pranab ink 123 (Second Lead)

October 11th, 2008 - 10:38 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghWashington, Oct 11 (IANS) The historic India-US civil nuclear deal is finally done with the signing of a pact envisioned by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush to end three decades of India’s nuclear isolation.India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sealed the deal with the bilateral 123 agreement at a ceremony in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department at 4:16 p.m. Friday (1:46 a.m. Saturday).

“This is truly an historic occasion,” said Rice before signing what she called an “unprecedented” agreement. Mukherjee, who “flew in all the way from New Delhi to sign the deal” as she put it, called it an “an important day for India-US relations.”

“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 1980 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.

“The significance of this Agreement is that it is the first step to civil nuclear co-operation and trade between India and the USA,” he said noting it “reflects a careful balance of rights and obligations.”

Underlining the fact the bilateral agreement “has been passed by the US Congress without any amendments, Mukherjee said: “Its provisions are now legally binding on both sides once the Agreement enters into force.”

At a press conference later he made the legally binding nature of the accord more explicit: “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.”

A couple of riders in the Congressional approval besides Bush’s controversial message to the legislature that the nuclear fuel supply assurances in the 123 agreement were “political commitments” and not “legally binding” had raised concerns in India.

Mukherjee came to ink the bilateral agreement just two days after Bush addressed these concerns in a presidential statement asserting that the US enabling law does not change US commitments on nuclear fuel assurances and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel mentioned in the draft 123 agreement.

Calling 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.”

Attributing it to “one factor and one factor alone: statesmanship, the courage and democratic statesmanship both in New Delhi and in Washington,” she noted that Manmohan Singh “literally risked his political future for this agreement and then remade his government to gain the support that he needed.”

“And President Bush first saw the potential and the need for transforming the US-India partnership all the way back in 1999 when he was still the governor of Texas, and he’s made it one of his highest priorities,” Rice said adding, “That is what democratic leaders do.”

“…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 said.

“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.”

India and the US have taken on an extremely difficult challenge, said Rice. “We’ve met it. We’ve succeeded together. Now, I believe, there is nothing that we cannot do together,”

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