US would stand by its commitment of signing Indo-US nuke deal: Rice

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New Delhi, Oct 4 : The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said today that United States would stand by its commitments and the delay in the signing of the deal is because of administrative procedure.

Rice arrived in India on Saturday after Congress ratified a historic nuclear pact, but was unlikely to sign the deal during her visit because of bureaucratic procedures.

She promised that the USA would stand by its commitments and US President George W. Bush would sign the deal soon.

Rice further said that the delay is not that unusual because legislation needed to be processed before being sent to the White House.

"The President will sign the agreement very soon, there are administrative details that have to be worked through. Capitol Hill has to be enrolled, it is called and then has to be transmitted to the White House. I think you know that, this has been a busy time for our legislative bench for over the last several days but indeed the President is looking forward to signing the legislation. The Administration has made it clear that the Hyde act is completely consistent with the 123 agreement that we have signed with India. And the 123 agreement is consistent with the Hyde act. The United States will keep its commitments to both," said Rice.

While addressing the media, she also discussed about the issue of terrorism in South Asia and the need for Pakistan and India to cooperate toward stability in Afghanistan.

Rice said that United States is eager to find a solution to widespread terrorism in Pakistan and in building co-operation between Indian and Pakistan.

"Well, we all have a stake in a successfully civilian government in Pakistan, that can deal with Pakistan's considerable challengers be they economic, or political but particularly in terms of terrorism. Pakistan has an interest in fighting terrorism more than anyone. I don't think that there are any interest in conflict here but the degree that a good relationship between India and Pakistan are going to help and which I think it will. I have to say that I can see understanding on both side, the Pakistani side with the new government and on the Indian side," Rice added.

The deal, overturning a three-decade ban on U.S. nuclear trade with India, is seen as bringing two of the world's largest democracies closer while opening up the Indian nuclear energy market worth billions of dollars.

The Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee chaired the news conference with Rice in New Delhi today. He said the deal is just an enabling provision and once we enter into bilateral deals the facilities for reprocessing will be finalized.

"It has enabled the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) member countries to enter into civil nuclear cooperation trade with India. This is just an enabling provision. There after through the bilateral arrangements the details of implementing the agreement will be finalized. In respect of the facilities for reprocessing as and when we will enter the bilateral arrangement the issues will be addressed," Mukherjee said.

Indian officials too confirmed that a "signing ceremony" had not been planned during Rice's visit during which she is expected to also nudge New Delhi to buy American technology.

Analysts said Rice, instrumental in rallying support for the pact in Congress which ratified it this week, would make a strong case for American companies such as General Electric and Westinghouse Electric, a unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp.

Rice, who said the relationship between India and the United States was at a "very, very different level" in the wake of the nuclear deal approval, said the two countries were already discussing military sales, and should also boost cooperation in economic, educational, and agricultural programmes and humanitarian aid to other countries.

She will be meeting Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and opposition leader L. K. Advani, whose party opposed the deal for making India an unequal partner.

The India-U.S. deal could open up around 27 billion dollar in investment in 18-20 nuclear plants in India over the next 15 years, according to the Confederation of Indian Industry.

There is global competition for that business with France's Areva, U.S.' General Electric, Japan's Hitachi Limited and Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom vying for contracts.

Some analysts say India could buy nuclear technology from the French or even cold war ally, Russia, which is already building two 1,000 megawatt reactors at in southern India as part of a deal signed in 1988.

Also, India could expect to get a hefty discount from Russia on major deals, as it competes with the United States for influence over New Delhi.

Critics of the deal say it does grave damage to global efforts to contain the spread of nuclear weapons, by letting India import nuclear fuel and technology even though it has tested nuclear weapons and has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

U.S. officials, though, brush aside that criticism, emphasising instead the importance of establishing deeper ties with a country that is a counterbalance to China's rise.

ANI

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