9 Oct : US President George W Bush has assured that India can count on reliable fuel supply for its civilian nuclear reactors and will have "advance consent" to reprocessing.
Signing the bill into law at a ceremony in the White House on Wednesday, Bush said that the legislation accepts on behalf of the US all the obligations that were part of the accord.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will ink the 123 Agreement with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday evening (0130 hrs IST Saturday), concluding the deal after tough negotiations spanning three years.
"It’s a big deal," Bush said in a statement during the signing ceremony for the HR7081 bill at the White House’s ornate East Room, adding "we (India and the US) are natural partners as we head into the 21st century."
"This 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," he said.
Bush’s remarks came against the backdrop of concerns expressed by India over fuel supplies following his Administration’s assertion that the assurances were only political commitments and not legally binding.
"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.
The US President has "exceeded our expectations on each and every issue" and has contributed in an "extraordinary manner," Indian Ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, told reporters, describing the law as a "new beginning" in bilateral ties.
Bush also described India and the US as natural partners.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will formally sign the overall bilateral nuclear cooperation accord on Friday evening itself in a surprise announcement made by the State Department hours before Bush’s signature on the implementing legislation.
"The agreement also grants India advance consent to reprocessing, which will be brought into effect upon the conclusion of arrangements and procedures for a dedicated reprocessing facility under IAEA safeguards," Bush said.
Bush said the agreement is consistent with Atomic Energy Act and other elements of the US law and that the legislation makes no changes to the 123 Agreement.
Bush inked the "H R 7081, United States- India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act " finally cleared by the US Congress last week reversing 34 years of US policy to eventually allow American businesses to have a share of India’s 100 billion dollar nuclear pie.
"On Friday at 4 o’clock (0130 IST Saturday) the secretary will sign with the Indian foreign minister, Foreign Minister Mukherjee, the India Civil Nuclear Agreement," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.
"This follows on the president’s signature today of implementing legislation in the United States," he added.
Bush welcomed the large gathering of senior administration officials, members of Congress, the Ambassador of India and the Indian American community saying that this agreement with India will also strengthen global non proliferation efforts.
“Our agreement will also strengthen global non-proliferation efforts. India has committed to operate its civil nuclear energy programme under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international guidelines.”
“India will continue to build on its strong record of responsibility in operating its nuclear facilities. And India and the United States will cooperate more closely to keep the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of extremists and terrorists” Bush said.
"The bill I sign today approves the 123 Agreement I submitted to Congress and establishes the legal framework for that agreement to come into effect, he said.
"By passing this legislation, my administration and Congress demonstrate our common view that nuclear cooperation is in the interests of both the United States and India."
"The legislation makes no changes to the terms of the 123 Agreement I submitted to Congress. It enables me to bring that agreement into force and to accept on behalf of the United States all the obligations that are part of the agreement," Bush said.
Bush paid glowing tributes to two members of Congress who were instrumental in seeing the agreement coming to a fruition– the late Henry Hyde and the Late Tom Lantos.
In the distinguished gathering at the stage were the Vice President Dick Cheney, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, Senators Chris Dodd and John Warner, Congressmen Joe Crowley and Elliot Engel and the Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen.
"This agreement sends a signal to the world: Nations that follow the path to democracy and responsible behavior will find a friend in the United States of America" Bush said.
Earlier welcoming the gathering that included a large number of Indian American leaders who were instrumental in pushing the accord in the U.S.Congress Bush said that he has the "honor" of signing legislation "that builds on the growing ties between the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States".
"This legislation will enhance our cooperation in using nuclear energy to power our economies. It will help us work together even more closely to reduce the danger of nuclear proliferation across the world. This legislation represents more than three years of hard work by a lot of people. I appreciate the work of the Indian American leaders from across the nation" Bush said.
"By undertaking new cooperation on civil nuclear energy, India will be able to count on a reliable fuel supply for its civilian reactors, meet the energy demands of its people, and reduce its independence on fossil fuels," Bush said, addressing New Delhi’s concerns.
By signing the deal, the US will gain access to a growing market for civilian nuclear technologies and materials that will help American businesses create more jobs at home, he said.
Bush thanked the senior leaders of the Congress saying that he is "grateful" to the leadership provided by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.