Pranab, Rice sign Indo-US nuclear deal

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Washington, Oct 11: The 34-year nuclear isolation for India ends here. The United States on Friday, Oct 10 night signed the 123 agreement on the peaceful use of the nuclear energy, vowing to use their nascent strategic partnership in shaping a new world order. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who inked the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice here, said it was ''One more visible sign of the transformed relationship and partnership that our two countries are building together.'' Mr Mukherjee said both India and the US had now completed ''all our internal procedures to be able to sign this pathbreaking agreement.'' Ms Rice responded by saying that the agreement was ''unprecedented'' and demonstrated ''the vast potential partnership between India and the US, a potential that has gone unfulfilled for too many decades of mistrust, and now a potential that can be fully realised''.

''Let no one assume, though, that our work is now finished. Indeed, what is most valuable about this agreement is how it unlocks a new and far broader world of potential for our strategic partnership in the 21st century, not just on nuclear cooperation but on every area of national endeavour,'' the Secretary said.

She visualised that the partnership would tackle ''the great global challenges of our time: energy security and climate change, terrorism and violent extremism, transnational crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction''.

Ms Rice said, ''With the conclusion of this civil nuclear agreement, our partnership will be limited only by our will and our imagination.'' Carrying forward the same theme, Mr Mukherjee said, ''Our engagement and productive bilateral dialogues include clean and efficient energy, high technology, defence, space, education, agriculture, science and technology, civil aviation, infrastructure development and information technology, to name just a few.'' The External Affairs Minister said, ''these will, I am sure, gain momentum with the signing of this agreement. We look forward to working with the US in promoting non-proliferation, containing and fighting pandemics, climate change, ensuring food security, cooperating in disaster relief operations and other regional and global initiatives.'' US President George W Bush had signed the deal into law on October 8 culminating the long and arduous endorsement process which began when he first signed the pact with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005.

Ms Rice had hoped to sign the pact on her visit to New Delhi last week, just after the nuclear pact was approved by the US Congress by an overwhelming majority but bureaucratic hitch did not let it happen.

Mr Mukherjee was accompanied by Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar, Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen, Prime Minister's Special Envoy Shyam Saran and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon here to formally clinch the deal.

Both Ms Rice and Mr Mukherjee called it a truly historic occasion. Leading Congressmen and prominent members of the two-million-strong Indian American community turned up to witness the signing ceremony in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department.

The 123 agreement, which took three years to reach its present final stage, will give India an access to the US nuclear fuel, reactors and technology, overturning a ban on such trade imposed after India's first nuclear test in 1974. In return, New Delhi will subject its non-military nuclear installations to international inspection.

UNI

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