Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: India Inc. on Saturday hailed the passage of the U.S.-India Civil Atomic Energy Cooperation Bill as "momentous and historic" and a "vote of confidence in India."

Saroj K. Poddar, president, Federation of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the lifting of the nuclear blockade would end India's isolation and enable it to source nuclear fuel and technology to strengthen its energy programme and growth.

Congratulating U.S. President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on their personal efforts in getting the deal through the Senate and the Congress, he said India would now be able to procure dual-use technology for areas such as health care, biotechnology and weather forecasting. This would open up newer opportunities for the U.S. and other nuclear technology leaders.

Mr. Poddar lauded the contribution of the Indian-American community and the U.S. India Business Council towards the successful passage of the Bill. The agreement was a powerful expression of the importance the U.S. attached to India and recognition of its sincerity to non-proliferation.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said the adoption of the Bill reflected the global confidence in India as a responsible, free market and stable democracy.

"This is a vote of confidence in India," said CII chief R. Seshasayee. India's energy strategy and its plans and needs would be greatly strengthened by the cooperation with its global partners.

India could now expand its energy programmes, the statement said.