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PM may sign N-deal with France

Renu Mittal on Board the Prime Minister's Special Aircraft | September 29, 2008 08:28 IST

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Indo-US Nuclear Tango

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] left New York for Marseilles to attend the India-European Union summit and hold discussions with French President Nicolas Sarkozy he looked set to ink the Indo-French civilian nuclear deal.

Expressing satisfaction that the 123 agreement had been passed in the Congress and that "one more hurdle had been crossed," Dr Singh said he would wait for the final outcome and the end of the Congressional process.

With the Indo-US nuclear deal almost in the bag, the civil nuclear agreement with France [Images] also looks to be completed.

Speaking to reporters, the prime minister in a brief interaction said he was looking forward to the "possible signature" on the civil nuclear co-operation bilateral agreement with France.

In January this year the framework agreement had been initialed and the prime minister said, "It will certainly come up for review and possible signature during my visit."

The prime minister is meeting President Sarkozy as the chairperson of the EU  in Marseilles and the two will meet again in Paris on September 30 when in the delegation-level talks the bilateral civil nuclear agreement with France would be firmed up.

It is significant that apart from Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, who is a part of the Prime Minister's delegation in both Marseilles and Paris, Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, is a member of the official delegation for the bilateral summit in Paris.

The prime minister gave brief details on the bilateral meetings he had during his five day stay in New York, which included Wen Jiabao of China, President Zardari of Pakistan, President Bush of the US, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom and brief interactions with the prime ministers of Norway and Netherlands.

He said the visit to Washington was designed to review the state of Indo-US relations in the background of the July 18, 2005, statement. He said both he and the US president "expressed satisfaction at the way the relations have progressed".

A visibly relaxed and satisfied Dr Singh said he had just heard that the House had passed the bill and that it would now go to the Congress. "Well, I am happy that one hurdle has been crossed but it is not the end of the Congressional process and we need to wait for the final outcome," commented the prime minister.

Highly placed sources said that there were "concerns" about the language in the 123 agreement, but the Bush administration is said to have assured the Indian government that their concerns would be taken care of.

This could take the form of a presidential statement detailing which of the provisions passed by the Congress and Senate would not be binding on the administration and this sources say would satisfy the Indian government. It is similar to what happened when the Hyde Act was passed and is a procedure which the Dr Singh administration has no problem with.

Sources said the prime minister would be able to stand up and face Parliament in consonance with the assurances he had made to the people through arliament. The sources said the process was still at a sensitive stage and they would wait before making any further comments.

Sources also said that it is possible that the 123 agreement would be signed between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] when she visits New Delhi [Images]. The details of the visit are being worked out.

Just before his departure from New York, the prime minister attended a reception of over 400 prominent and influential Indian-Americans where he announced to an enthusiastic and eager audience that the Indo-US nuclear deal is "nearing fruition" and that India is on the verge of securing a new status in the global nuclear order after being liberated from the constraints of technology for 34 years.

"The historic agreement on cooperation in the development of civil nuclear energy in India that President George Bush [Images] and I embarked upon is nearing fruition... India will be liberated from the constraints of technology denial of 34 years," the prime minister said at a reception at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.

Dr Singh said the civil nuclear agreement, once concluded, would add an important strategic pillar to Indo-US bilateral relationship, '"e will widen our clean energy options," he said. Lauding the role of 1.73 million strong Indian community in the US in playing a major role for the success of the civil nuclear deal, the prime minister said, ''Your achievements fill my heart with pride.''

Before Dr Singh spoke, the Indian ambassador to the US announced the just breaking news that the US Congress had passed the 123 agreement. He said the prime minister had made history and it was a privilege for all of them to be a part of that history. The announcement was received with loud cheers, claps and cat calls of satisfaction.

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