President George Bush on Monday signed a landmark law that would allow the United States to resume civilian nuclear trade with India over three decades after New Delhi exploded a nuclear device in 1974.
Underling the significance of the bipartisan legislation, the president appended his signature to the document at 10.56 am (9.26 pm IST) against the backdrop of 18 flags - nine Indian and nine American - at a glittering ceremony in the East Room of the historic White House.
The legislation, Bush said will help America achieve four key goals: strengthen cooperation between the two countries on energy; help promote economic growth, make it possible for India to reduce emissions and improve environment; and help America safe by paving the way for India to join the global effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
The act is an important step that will allow the two countries to share civilian nuclear technology and bring India's civilian nuclear programme under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he added.
"America and India, the world's two largest democracies, are united by deeply held values. They are allies in the war on terror, partners in global trade, and stewards of environment and the act will help them meet the energy and security challenges of the 21st century," the president noted.
India, Bush said, is a democracy that protects the rule of law and is accountable to its people, and is an open society that defends freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
The two countries are also working together to expand economic opportunities in both countries, he noted, adding India's economy has more than doubled in size since 1991, and it is one of the fastest growing markets for American exports.
"This trade is creating new jobs in America and raising the standard of living for million throughout India, Bush said. America will continue to work with India to promote free and fair trade - and fuel economic growth in both countries," the president maintained.
The president singled out Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying the bill would not have happened without her leadership.
The Indian American community, which was represented in large numbers at the ceremony, was vital to explaining the strategic bill to the Americans.
"I appreciate so very much your carrying the message not only here at home, but in India. And I want you to know that your voice was very effective," Bush said.