Washington, Oct 9: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will sign on Friday, Oct 10 the landmark US-India civilian nuclear deal at the White House, where President George Bush inked the landmark deal into law on Wednesday, Oct 8.
The State Department sprang a surprise by announcing another signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House within couple of days after Bush had put his signature on the enactment, which lifts the 34-year-old global ban on the export of nuclear fuel and technology to India. In return, New Delhi will open its non-military nuclear facilities to international inspection. It was not explained as to what made the two countries to have the agreement signed by their foreign ministers so soon after the President had initialed it. Mr Bush at the signing ceremony said, ''This legislation (containing the agreement) will enhance our cooperation in using nuclear energy to power our economies, will help us to work together more closely to reduce the danger of nuclear proliferation across the world.''
He also made it point to mention that relations between Washington and New Delhi had, at times, been cool. But, ''In recent years we have worked to transform our relationship into a strong strategic partnership.'' The President said one area where the two countries saw 'tremendous potential' for co-operation was energy.
''As our economies have grown, our demands for energy have grown, as well. It has become increasingly clear that we need to generate in ways that are safe and clean and secure. One energy source that can generate large amounts of electricity with zero emissions of air pollution or greenhouse gases is nuclear power,'' he said.
Mr Bush, who considers the deal a major foreign policy achievement of his eight-year-old administration, described Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as 'my dear friend' and the United States and India as ''natural partners, despite being physically separated half way through the globe.'' India attracted the global sanctions for its first nuclear test in 1974 and subsequently in 1998, it conducted more tests.
Non-signatories are barred from cooperation in the nuclear field but the US-India nuclear accord makes an exception in case of New Delhi.
Vice-President Dick Cheney, State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen, leading Congressmen and a select group of the representatives of the two-million-strong Indian American community attended the White House ceremony.
The President appreciated the work of the Indian-American leaders for bringing the measure to fruition.
''I am so honoured here that -- to have the Ambassador of India to the United States with us -- Ambassador Sen, thank you for joining us,'' Bush said amid applause.
Republican Congressman Ed Royce, who was very active in getting the agreement approved by the House of Representatives, recalled that there were many who thought this day would never come. The newspaper headlines that wrote this deal's obituary were wrong.
''The hard work of the US and Indian governments, supporters in Congress, and the Indian American community has paid off. This is truly a momentous day for US-India relations,'' said Royce, who was invited to yesterday's White House ceremony.
The signing ceremony came after the legislation passed Congress in the final days of its legislative session early this month.
In the House of Representatives, the initiative passed with strong Republican support by a vote of 298-117; over 100 Democrats opposed the deal.