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President Bush inks Indo-US N-deal
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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December 18, 2006 22:11 IST
Last Updated: December 19, 2006 00:13 IST

History was made on Monday at 10.45 am.

United States President George W Bush [Images] signed a new law that will allow the US to have nuclear trade with India.

Nearly 100 Indian-American community leaders and activists were present at the historic signing, along with several senior Bush administrational officers and Congressional aides including Nick Burns, the chief negotiating officer, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Richard Boucher, and also several lobbyists who played a major role in pushing for the legislation.

Ironically, the bill's biggest supporters were absent due to ill health and other personal reasons.

Retiring Congressman Henry Hyde, after whom the bill was named, Senator Joseph Biden, Senate Minority leader Harry Reed and Congressman Tom Lantos were the notable absentees.

Flanking the president were Senator Richard Lugar, Congressman Frank Pallone, Congressman Gary Ackerman, Congressman Joe Crowley, Senator George Allen, Senate Majority leader Bill Frisk, and Congressman Thad McCotter.

Deputy Chief of Mission Raminder Jassal represented the Indian government.

President Bush also paid special tribute to the leadership of Rice and also to the Indian-American community.

He thanked the community leaders saying they were vital to explaining this particular bill to American citizens, and carrying the message to India as well.

"Your voice was very effective," he said to thundering applause by the community leaders present.

"It is an honour to sign this bill that will strengthen the relationship between the two largest democracies in the world. The relationship between the US and India has never been so vital."

The document was brought in by a White House aide at 10.43 am. Bush walked in at 10.45 am and made his remarks before signing it. Bush signed the bill with just one pen and didn't give it to any of the lawmakers present.

Administration sources said it would be sent to Congressman Henry Hyde as a special tribute to him, to signify the bill that was named after him.

PTI adds:

Bush said the step will benefit the international community and enhance the relations between the two countries.

Describing India as a friend that needs large amount of clean energy because of its growing economy, Bush said New Delhi has been conducting its civil nuclear programme in a safe and responsible manner for decades.

"It is an important achievement for the whole world. The world is going to be safer," he said before signing the Henry J Hyde India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Act, passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Signing the act at a special White House ceremony, he said: "The deal will help keep America safe by paving the way for India to join the global efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons."

Describing India and the US as natural partners, Bush said the agreement will enable India to meet its growing energy needs and was evidence of growing bonds of trust between them.

"After 30 years outside the system, India will now operate its civilian nuclear energy programme under internationally-accepted guidelines and the world is going to be safer as a result," the US president said with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] standing by his side.

He showered praise on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and India as he highlighted that it was an open society and democracy that respected human rights and freedom.

"I have a lot of respect for Prime Minister Singh," he said and added: "We discussed the importance of working together to meet the energy needs of our growing economies.

"We recognise that clean energy is going to be important for the advancement of our economies. During my visit to India, we concluded this historic agreement, that will allow us to share civilian nuclear technology and bring India's civilian nuclear programme under the safeguards of IAEA."

As part of the agreement, the US and India have committed to take a series of steps to make nuclear cooperation a reality and 'we are going to fulfill these commitments', Bush said.

He pointed out that India's economy has more than doubled since 1991 leading to increased consumption of energy, mostly derived from fossil fuels.

India is fifth largest consumer of the world's energy and its requirement is going to double by 2015, the US president said, adding that access to civil nuclear power will help the country reduce dependence on hydrocarbons.

It will also enable India to use clear energy instead of fossil fuels that are accompanied by emissions and lead to a new strategic partnership.

The Act will also achieve four key goals, which includes strengthening cooperation between the two countries on one of the most important challenges of 21st century, which is energy.

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