Amit Baruah

Anything outside the joint statement unacceptable, says Sonia

  • Pranab thanks Bush, Rice for their "tireless efforts"
  • Some problems need to be looked at, solved: Mulford

    NEW DELHI: India has extended a guarded welcome to the passage of a Bill in the United States' Senate on civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

    Welcoming the Senate vote, United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi said on Friday that the UPA and the Congress would not accept anything outside the Indo-U.S. joint statement of July 18.

    "We sincerely hope that both [U.S.] Houses [the Senate and House of Representatives] will sit down and reconcile [their separate Bills]. All those areas that are not acceptable to us will be excluded, and only then we will welcome the Bill happily," Ms. Gandhi was quoted as saying at the Hindustan Times leadership summit.

    "Bipartisan support"

    On behalf of the Government, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee welcomed the passage of the Bill by an overwhelming majority as reflective of "the very broad bipartisan support, which this initiative enjoys."

    In a statement, he said:

    "We now expect that the final version of the legislation, which would emerge after the joint conference of the House and Senate, should adhere as closely as possible to the understandings incorporated in the July 18, 2005, Indo-U.S. joint statement and the March 2006 separation plan, so that full civil nuclear cooperation between India and the U.S. becomes a reality and contributes to India's energy security.

    "We understand that, as per present indications, the joint conference will convene after the passage of the Bill, and the final version will likely come up for a vote by both Houses when they reconvene after the Thanksgiving holidays on December 4. We must await the final version before drawing any conclusions on the legislation."

    "Tireless efforts"

    Mr. Mukherjee added that both U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had "worked personally" to ensure the passage of the Bill, and "we express our sincere appreciation for their tireless efforts."

    "Within parameters"

    Separately, U.S. Ambassador David Mulford told presspersons that the Senate Bill was within the parameters of the July 18, 2005, joint statement and the March 2 separation plan, and it "meets all those tests and conditions."

    Admitting that there were some areas of "uncertainty and sensitivity" as the process of rationalising the two Bills takes place, Mr. Mulford said, "We are aware of the fact that there are some problems that need to be looked at and solved. The [Bush] administration has made very clear its intention to continue to work with the Congress on these issues, and I believe it will be possible to resolve most of these problems, and that we will come out with something that is acceptable."

    Historic day

    In Mr. Mulford's view, Friday was a historic day in the long relationship between the U.S. and India "perhaps the best day ever" between the two countries.