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Pranab, Rice to sign N-deal on October 4 in Delhi

Renu Mittal in New York | September 27, 2008 18:43 IST

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Indo-US Nuclear Tango

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] and Union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee are expected to sign the Indo-US civil nuclear deal on October 4 in New Delhi [Images] in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images] in what is being billed as a major foreign policy and electoral triumph for the Dr Singh administration.

Sources reveal that both Mukherjee and Rice are expected to reach New Delhi on October 3 and would be attending an elaborate state dinner at Hyderabad House the same night with the US Senate expected to pass the 123 agreement latest by October 3.

The modalities of the visit are being finalised in New York with senior Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of External Affairs officials co-ordinating with the White House.

Mukherjee will be arriving in New York on Saturday to attend the United Nations General Assembly session and will be here over the next four days.

Sources say that the visits of both the prime minister and the external affairs minister have been timed and co-ordinated to ensure that the passage of the nuclear deal is not stalled at any stage and that it is being constantly monitored at the highest level.

While President Bush had made it clear to the Indian prime minister at their September 25 meeting in the White House that they are going all out to ensure the speedy conclusion of the nuclear deal, the Bush administration had made it clear that Dr Singh's presence would help push the deal and neutralise the skeptics.

With senior officials claiming that the passing of the deal is a matter of time as the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the 123 agreement on Saturday and the Senate to follow, the celebrations in the high-powered Indian community have already begun.

On Friday evening at a meeting with prominent Indian-American, Dr Singh was congratulated for the very successful conclusion of a successful visit.

The pro-deal lobby of Indian-Americans, who wield considerable influence amongst the mighty and powerful at Capitol Hill, is euphoric at the near passage of the deal and this mood was clear in the meeting they had with the prime minister.

Among those who attended were hotelier and democrat funder Sant Singh Chatwal, Rajat Gupta, the former head of McKinsey, and others.

Coupled with that, it was also the prime minister's birthday with a senior PMO official disclosing that it was double celebration time.

The 40-minute debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal in the Congress, which was fascinating in that each speaker whether speaking for or against voting on the deal, began by lavishing fulsome praise on India as the world's largest democracy and its new relationship with the world's oldest democracy.

With the non-proliferation lobby opposing the passage of the 123 agreement, the sentiment was preceded by strong words placing India as one of the world's powers to reckon with.

But PMO officials said that the prime minister could not watch the televised debate in the Congress as he was busy with the meeting with prominent NRIs. But maybe the prime minister can watch the voting in the Congress, which is expected on Saturday.

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