Allaying India's fears on certain provisions of the legislation on Indo-US nuclear deal which he signed into law, President George W Bush has said there are "no changes" in fuel supply commitments as provided in the 123 Agreement.
"This legislation does not change the fuel assurance commitments that the US government has made to the Government of India as recorded in the 123 Agreement," Bush said while signing the HR7081 bill into law last night, paving the way for the two countries to finally ink the deal tomorrow.
Bush's remarks came against the backdrop of concerns expressed by India over the fuel supplies following his Administration's assertion that the assurances were only political commitments and not legally binding.
"The Agreement grants India advance consent to reprocessing which will be brought into effect upon conclusion of arrangements and procedures for a dedicated reprocessing facility under IAEA safeguards," Bush said.
Describing Bush's signing of the legislation into law a "new beginning" in bilateral ties, Indian Ambassador to US, Ronen Sen, said New Delhi's concerns on certain provisions of the bill have been addressed.
"Absolutely", remarked Sen when asked by reporters if the President's address at the signing of the legislation met all of India's concerns.
"I think the statement (of Bush) speaks for itself... All concerns that have been expressed who fear the implications of certain elements of the legislation. All those have been met," Sen said in response to a query on fuel supply assurances.
Earlier in the day, the State Department said External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will formally sign the overall bilateral nuclear cooperation accord tomorrow.
"...On Friday, at 4 o'clock (0130 hrs IST Saturday), the Secretary will sign with the Indian Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Mukherjee, the India Civil Nuclear Agreement," State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters hours before Bush signed the legislation into law.
In a statement released by White House after the signing ceremony, Bush described the passage of the bill by Congress as a "milestone" in achieving the vision set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and himself of transforming the bilateral ties.
"I am pleased to sign into law the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act, which approves the US-India 123 Agreement," he said.
Bush said this act will strengthen the bilateral relationship and deliver valuable benefits to both nations.
"The legislation does not change the terms of the 123 Agreement as I submitted it to the Congress. That Agreement is consistent with the Atomic Energy Act and other elements of US law.
"This legislation is important as it enables me to bring the 123 Agreement into force and to accept on behalf of the United States the obligations contained in the Agreement," he said.
The passage of this legislation, Bush said, reflects the common view of his administration and the Congress as to the value of nuclear cooperation and is in the interest of both the US and India.
Bush inked the HR 7081, United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act cleared by the US Congress last week, reversing 34 years of US policy to eventually allow American businesses to have a share of India's 100 billion dollar nuclear pie.
By undertaking new cooperation on civil nuclear energy, India will be able to count on a reliable fuel supply for its civilian reactors, Bush said in his speech during the signing ceremony that was applauded on several occasions by the distinguished gathering assembled at the White House's ornate East Room.
Calling India and the US natural partners, Bush said New Delhi "will continue to build on its strong record of responsibility in operating its nuclear facilities.
"And India and the United States will cooperate more closely to keep the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of extremists and terrorists."
"This agreement sends a signal to the world: Nations that follow the path to democracy and responsible behaviour will find a friend in the United States of America," Bush said.
Earlier welcoming the gathering that included a large number of Indian American leaders who were instrumental in pushing the accord in the US Congress, Bush said he has the "honour" of signing legislation "that builds on the growing ties between the world's two largest democracies."
The President also expressed his appreciation for the "hard work" put in by Secretary of State Rice, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman and other members of his administration, the Indian Ambassador and Congressional staffers as well as the Indian American leaders.
Bush also mentioned that the First Lady Laura joined him in sending the best wishes to the people of India who will be celebrating Diwali.
Among the distinguished gathering present at the signing ceremony were Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, Energy Secretary Bodman, Senators Chris Dodd and John Warner, Congressmen Joe Crowley and Elliot Engel and Indian Ambassador Sen.