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Nuclear pact not signed but no open issues, says Rice

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MOVING FORWARD: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New Delhi on Saturday. She was upbeat about the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.
MOVING FORWARD: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New Delhi on Saturday. She was upbeat about the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.

Sandeep Dikshit

“Hyde Act is completely consistent with the 123 Agreement”

NEW DELHI: India and the U.S. could not sign the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s farewell visit to the region. But both sides said there were no differences and the signing of the deal by U.S. President George Bush was a matter of time.

At a joint news conference on Saturday with her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee, Ms. Rice said there were no “open issues” with India on the nuclear deal. Mr. Bush wanted to sign the agreement as soon as possible. But due to procedural difficulties, it could not be transmitted to the White House before she left for New Delhi.

“This is a busy time for the legislative branch. The President looks forward to signing the agreement very soon,” she said. “Once this process is complete, we will sign,” said Mr. Mukherjee.

Indian diplomats, it is learnt, managed to convince their American interlocutors to put off the signing of the 123 Agreement till Mr. Bush signed it into law.

The U.S. has shared the text of the statement Mr. Bush will make when he signs the Act and U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford has said the President’s signature was not a factor in signing the pact. But New Delhi wanted all formalities to be completed before signing the agreement.

While Ms. Rice said the U.S. would keep its commitments to both the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement, Mr. Mukherjee said issues like reprocessing and fuel supply could be addressed when bilateral agreements and commercial contracts were signed.

“The Administration has made it clear that the Hyde Act is completely consistent with the 123 Agreement and the 123 Agreement is consistent with the Hyde Act. The U.S. will keep its commitments to both,” she said.

“In respect of the facilities for reprocessing, we will enter into bilateral arrangements and the issues will be addressed. All aspects of the bilateral contract cannot be addressed through an enabling agreement. The bar which prevented Nuclear Suppliers Group members from trading with India has been removed. And how we respond will depend on the contracts,” said Mr. Mukherjee.

Both sides discussed the regional situation. They concurred on Afghanistan but there were differing perceptions on Pakistan with India insisting that Islamabad should put more vigour into the bilateral mechanisms. Pointing out that the former Pakistan Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, was a victim of terrorism, Ms. Rice counselled India to mend ties through dialogue and felt that both the U.S. and India had a stake in a successful civilian government in Pakistan.

Mr. Mukherjee said Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari had recently assured that his country’s territory would not be used to carry out terrorist attacks on India and he felt the joint terror mechanism set up by both countries must play a more active role in ensuring the assurances are realised.

During the day, Ms. Rice interacted with Mr. Mukherjee which was followed by delegation-level talks.

Related links:

  • A wide range of issues on the agenda
  • Uncertainty over signing of 123 agreement during Rice visit
  • Introspect, Congress tells Opposition
  • U.S. Senate clears nuclear deal
  • Mixed reactions
  • U.S. can't compel firms to give supply assurances: Mulford
  • Complete surrender: CPI(M)
  • Do not operationalise 123 - Editorial
  • US House of Representatives Bill on N-deal
  • Working hard to get deal approved as quickly as possible: Bush
  • Manmohan seeks satisfactory approval for deal
  • Foreign Affairs panel chief Berman backs deal
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