India, US all set to bring landmark n-deal to fruition (Lead)

October 10th, 2008 - 11:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghWashington, Oct 10 (IANS) India and the US are all set to seal their civil nuclear deal, bringing into reality the landmark accord envisioned by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush over three years ago.With India’s concerns over the deal met, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee flew in Friday morning to sign the bilateral 123 pact with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reopen nuclear commerce between the two countries after a hiatus of three decades.

The “Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of India and the Government of the United States of America concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy” will be signed at the State Department at 4 p.m. (1:30 a.m. Saturday in India) in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, it was announced.

Rice could not sign the agreement when she visited New Delhi last weekend with India concerned over a couple of riders relating to fuel supply assurances and reprocessing in the legislation approving the deal and insisting that Bush first sign the enabling law.

The landmark accord envisioned by Manmohan Singh and Bush in a joint statement on July 18, 2005 will end the ban on nuclear trade imposed after India conducted its first “peaceful nuclear explosion” in May 1974.

Mukherjee has come to ink the bilateral agreement just two days after Bush signed a historic enabling law with an assertion that it does not change US 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 the Congressional approval of what he called a “big deal” at a White House ceremony Wednesday.

An accompanying presidential statement made it more explicit. “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.”

“The Agreement grants India advance consent to reprocessing which will be brought into effect upon conclusion of arrangements and procedures for a dedicated reprocessing facility under IAEA safeguards,” Bush said.

“In addition, the legislation does not change the fuel assurance commitments that the US government has made to the government of India, as recorded in the 123 Agreement,” Bush maintained.

India’s Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen told reporters after the signing that the presidential statement, with assurances on fuel supplies and “advanced consent” for reprocessing “absolutely” met India’s concerns.

“I think the (Bush) statement speaks for itself… All concerns that have been expressed, who fear the implications of certain elements of the legislation, all those have been met,” he said.

“I am confident because we negotiated the 123 Agreement with great care and I was confident right from the beginning that many of the concerns that had been expressed would be met like they have been in the past,” Sen maintained.

Meanwhile, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican member on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, hailed the agreement for paving the way for closer ties between the world’s two largest democracies.

“Stronger economic, scientific, diplomatic, and military cooperation between the US and India is in the national interest of both countries and reflects our increasingly close relationship with this important democratic ally,” she stated.

“In addition to helping India provide energy to its rapidly growing population, this agreement will strengthen the emerging alliance between the countries,” Ros-Lehtinen said, adding: “This is not an agreement which we would enter into with just any country.”

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