India on Wednesday lauded UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei for his role in the success of India's global civil nuclear deal as President Pratibha Patil presented the Indira Gandhi Prize to him.
Patil presented the 2008 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development to ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
ElBaradei was given the prestigious award for "his impassioned opposition to the use of nuclear energy for military purposes and his steadfast espousal of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, sustained over many years".
Describing ElBaradei as "a very distinguished diplomat, a scholar, an international civil servant of the highest order and a world statesman," Manmohan Singh lauded the IAEA chief for bringing about "a fundamental transformation in the way we look at atomic energy".
The prime minister also conveyed India's appreciation to ElBaradei, a former Egyptian diplomat, for supporting India's civil nuclear initiative and his deep understanding of the "intrinsic links between peace, disarmament and development".
"The successful conclusion of India's civil nuclear initiative was in no small measure due to the enlightened approach of ElBaradei to the issues involved," Manmohan Singh said.
“I would like to convey to him the heartfelt appreciation of the government and people of India. India is now poised for a major expansion of its nuclear programme in which international cooperation will be an important component," he said.
The 67-year-old ElBaradei played an important role in India clinching the safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which paved the way for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) clearing New Delhi's re-entry into international nuclear commerce Sep 6 last year.
Batting vigorously for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the prime minister stressed that its benefits should not remain confined to a privileged few.
"Nuclear energy is vital to meeting our energy and developmental needs, particularly those of large developing countries like India. The applications of nuclear energy in agriculture, medicine and industry have also enormous potential," he said.
ElBaradei and the IAEA he heads were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.