M A I N   N E W S

India, US clinch nuclear deal
*No accord signed *Bush accepts N-separation plan
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
India today successfully wrecked the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime and got recognised as a de-facto nuclear state when it clinched a civilian nuclear power cooperation deal with the United States, the world’s sole superpower.

However, no agreements were signed between India and the US after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the visiting US President George W Bush, as reported by The Tribune on March 1.

The Indian nuclear facilities Separation Plan was eventually found acceptable to the US and the Americans found it good enough to get approval from the Congress and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). The Separation Plan exercise is being undertaken in phases and the process would be completed in year 2014.

The nuclear deal went down to the wire and was negotiated between the two sides since last evening until 1 am today and then again in the morning before the Bush-Manmohan one-on-one talks for 45 minutes. It is understood that the two leaders personally shepherded the deal after hardselling it to their respective sides.

"We concluded a historic agreement today on nuclear power. It's not an easy job for the Prime Minister to achieve this agreement, I understand. It's not easy for the American President to achieve this agreement," Mr Bush said at a joint media opportunity with Dr Manmohan Singh at Hyderabad House.

Mr Bush’s announcement came even as Dr Manmohan Singh made a fleeting reference to the deal but cited his inability to give details as Parliament was in session. Mr Bush described the deal as "a necessary agreement… one that will help both our peoples" - a comment which is clearly aimed at his domestic constituency for garnering Congress support. The deal is being seen as a coup for Mr Bush’s maiden visit to India.

The Prime Minister is likely to make a statement in Parliament on March 6 on today’s nuclear deal with the US. On March 6, he is already scheduled to make a statement on the Iran issue.

In this context, he admitted that convincing the lawmakers at home was a difficult task ahead for his administration. "Proliferation is certainly a concern and a part of our discussions and we've got a good-faith gesture by the Indian government that I'll be able to take to the Congress. But the other thing that our Congress has got to understand that it's in our economic interests that India have a civilian nuclear power industry to help take the pressure off the global demand for energy. ... To the extent that we can reduce demand for fossil fuels, it will reduce the cost to the American consumer."

In what was music to the ears of Indian leadership, Mr Bush stated that the deal was responsible and would not increase proliferation risks. He also acknowledged that the deal fell outside the limits of traditional international agreements. "What this agreement says is — things change, times change, that leadership can make a difference. ... So I'm trying to think differently, not stay stuck in the past."

Under the agreement, Washington will share American nuclear know-how and fuel with India to help power its fast-growing economy, even though India has not signed and will not sign the NPT. The deal is also a pointer to the fact that India has come a long way since Pokhran-II nuclear tests of 1998 when the US led the international community in imposing sanctions on India.

Mr Bush made it evident that he was clearly charmed by his maiden passage to India. He thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “for arranging beautiful weather”.

Besides, he also had a good word to say about the ceremonial reception he was accorded today at Rashtrapati Bhavan. "I have been received in many capitals around the world but I have never seen a reception as well-organised or as grand," Mr Bush said.

Mr Bush said he had been briefed on the bombing near the US Consulate in Karachi this morning and added that the attack would not deter him in his travels. "Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan," he said.



Bush advances visit to Pak

New Delhi, March 2
US President George W. Bush, who was scheduled to leave for Pakistan on Saturday, has advanced his departure and will undertake the journey tomorrow night, after the assessment of the security situation there.

The decision to advance the departure was “made a while ago” after assessing the security situation, US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said.

He will hold the talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday.

Bush will now fly to Islamabad tomorrow evening after his address at Purana Qila and spend the night in the Pakistani capital. — PTI


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