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123 law makes no change in fuel assurances: Bush
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

SIGNED AND SEALED: President George Bush signs the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington DC on Wednesday. — AFP

President George W. Bush on Wednesday allayed India’s concerns about nuclear fuel supply assurances, saying the legislation he was signing “does not change the fuel assurance commitments that the United States government has made to the government of India, as recorded in the 123 Agreement.”

Bush further noted that the agreement also “grants India ‘advance consent to reprocessing’ which will be brought into effect on the conclusion of arrangements and procedures for a dedicated reprocessing facility under IAEA safeguards.”

And in a sign that New Delhi is satisfied with the language of the agreement, a US official announced secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee will initial the US-India nuclear deal during the latter's visit to Washington on Friday.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack said the signing would take place at 4 pm.

Asked why the 123 Agreement was not signed when Rice was in New Delhi last weekend, McCormack explained the Bill “had to be enrolled.”

He said this was “a necessary step that had to be taken before we felt we were able to move forward with the signature of the US-India agreement.”

“That didn't take place in the timeframe that we were in India. And the Friday date is mutually convenient for foreign minister Mukherjee, who is flying all the way to the US, and we appreciate that, and secretary Rice as well,” McCormack said.

On reports in the Indian media that New Delhi was seeking assurances on fuel supplies and reprocessing of spent fuel before signing the agreement, McCormack insisted, “from our perspective, it centered solely on this technicality of our needing to move through some bureaucratic steps.”

With a flourish of his pen, Bush ended three decades of India’s nuclear isolation (as reported in these columns on Wednesday) and ensured for himself a piece of legacy many believe to be a foreign policy success. Surrounded by members of his Cabinet, Congress and the diplomatic corps at the White House, Bush signed legislation that allows US companies to sell nuclear fuel, technology and reactors to India.

They had been prevented from doing so after India conducted its first nuclear test at Pokhran in 1974. In exchange, India has placed its civilian nuclear reactors under safeguards and has opened these facilities to UN inspection. Analysts say India could still face serious consequences in the event of a future nuclear test.

The lavish signing ceremony capped more than three years of intense diplomacy and tough negotiations. Vice-President Dick Cheney, secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, energy secretary Samuel Bodman, supporters of the deal on Capitol Hill and India’s Ambassador in the US, Ronen Sen, and the US Ambassador to India, David Mulford, were among those who attended the signing ceremony.

Speaking at the White House, Bush said the legislation he was about to sign made no changes to the terms of the 123 Agreement he had submitted to Congress.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Bush’s signing statement left “open the question of how the language in the 123 Agreement on fuel supply assurances and termination should be interpreted.”

Kimball noted, “Bush’s comments do not in any way negate the US law (including the Atomic Energy Act, the Hyde Act, or H.R. 7081) or his own administration’s statements that make it absolutely clear that if India resumes testing, US nuclear trade and fuel supply assurances shall be terminated and the 123 Agreement is, as Sen. (Richard) Lugar put it, ‘over.’”

However, Ambassador Sen said India’s concerns had been adequately addressed. Bush said the legislation “builds on the growing ties between the world’s two largest democracies.”

“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,” he said.

The President thanked the leadership in Congress, including two late lawmakers - Republican Rep. Henry Hyde and Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos - who first crafted and then championed the deal from the start. The Hyde Act gets its name from the Republican lawmaker. The Indian American community was present at the signing. Texas-based Ashok Mago, of the US-India Forum, recalled the initial lukewarm support when Bush first presented the deal in 2005.

“Supporters were getting nervous, but were determined to succeed,” he said, adding, “for Indian Americans this was personal.

It was an opportunity to help their country of birth and their adopted homeland.”

“You may or may not agree with President Bush’s domestic and or foreign policies but one thing we all can agree on that no other US President has done for India what this President has done,” Mago said.



Mukherjee, Rice to sign N-deal in Washington 
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 9
US President George Bush has given his Diwali gift to India well in advance — on the occasion of Dussehra.

India is quite satisfied with the assurances given by President Bush while signing the Indo-US nuclear cooperation bill into a law, particularly with regard to fuel supplies and ‘advanced consent’ for reprocessing.

Though there was no official reaction from the external affairs ministry to the wrapping up of the landmark deal by the American president, official sources asserted that India would not have agreed to ink the deal if all its concerns had not been addressed.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee has left for Washigton to sign the 123 agreement with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday evening (early Saturday morning in India).

The sources said New Delhi had negotiated the 123 agreement with great care and was hopeful that all its concerns would be dispelled by President Bush when he signs the legislation, notwithstanding the statements he had made while the nuclear deal was going through the domestic political process in the US.

Observing that Bush had even exceeded India’s expectations on each and every issue, the sources acknowledged with appreciation the active role played by the American President both at home and abroad to push the deal through.

There were high expectations that the 123 agreement would be signed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to meet President Bush in Washington on September 25. However, because of its preoccupation with the global economic meltdown, the US Congress could not approve the deal by then.

It could not be signed even on October four when Rice paid a ‘farewell’ visit to New Delhi as India insisted that it would like to go through the statement that President Bush would make while signing the bill into a law.

Now that the President has signed the bill and addressed New Delhi’s concerns, the stage is set for the 123 agreement to be signed. And once that happens, it will end India’s nuclear isolation and give it an automatic recognition by the world as the de facto sixth nuclear power.

The deal is being considered a historic breakthrough for India, which suffered the technology denial regime for too long, to join the nuclear club without signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Strategic experts argue that India won the world’s recognition largely on its own terms and against strong opposition from the advocates of non-proliferation, as was reflected at the NSG meeting in Vienna early last month.



Defeat for nation: BJP, Left
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 9
The Left and the BJP have reacted with alacrity and disbelief to US president George Bush’s assurances to India upon signing the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

While the BJP maintained that it confirmed its worst fears of this being a defeat for India, the Left decried it as a sign of mutual desperation on both sides.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat reacted to Bush’s statement saying, “The statement made by Bush after signing the deal was nothing but a device to allay genuine fears over the deal.”

CPI national secretary D. Raja said, “There is a wide gap between Indian and the US understanding of the deal.” He said, “While Washington considered 123 Agreement to be governed by the Hyde Act, its Atomic Energy Act and other American laws, New Delhi is of the view that only this agreement is binding.”

The CPI leader said while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to show some achievement at the fag end of his tenure, the Americans were desperate to help the military-industrial establishment at a time when the US was passing through a mega financial crisis.

He cautioned that American nuclear companies were waiting to tap the massive Indian market, which would help them revive financially, and added “the Congress-led UPA government helping them in this.”

“Nobody is talking about the economic cost of this deal to India. It will simply be huge. It will have serious consequences for India and its future,” Raja said.

He said it would depend on the US government to ensure or block uninterrupted nuclear fuel supplies to India. “We will have to see how far the Indian government has yielded to the US,” he added. Simultaneously, BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy dismissed Bush’ comments as mere personal assurances with no legal standing.

He said, history would prove that the agreement was a defeat for the country. Even Bush was silent in his speech about the contentious issue of nuclear testing and the government had clearly failed in ensuring the sovereignty and nuclear independence for the country, the BJP spokesman said.

Rudy claimed vindication of the BJP stand and asserted that its opposition to the deal in its present form would continue unabated.




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