As External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee leaves for Washington on Thursday, India and the US are readying to sign the 123 nuclear pact that will reopen civil nuclear trade between the two countries after a gap of over three decades.
“The 123 pact will be signed on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning,” an official source told IANS.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mukherjee will formally ink the 123 civil nuclear cooperation agreement that will implement the landmark pact allowing trade in nuclear reactors, fuel and technologies between the two countries.
The pact will overturn the ban imposed on India after it conducted its first nuclear test in Pokhran, described by New Delhi as a “peaceful explosion”, in 1974.
The two countries were earlier planning to sign the 123 pact, the sole bilateral document that defines terms of nuclear trade between the two countries, during Rice's daylong visit to India last week.
However, the pact could not be signed at the last-minute as India insisted that it first wanted US President George W. Bush to sign a bill to ratify the India-US civil nuclear deal and address some of New Delhi's concerns on fuel guarantees in his presidential signing statement.
Rice, who was keen to sign the deal on Saturday, however, had to put off the much-awaited signing and attributed it to “administrative details” which remained to be sorted out.
With Bush set to sign the bill enabling civilian nuclear cooperation with India, that hurdle has now been removed. Bush's signing statement is expected to address some of India's concerns.
The White House has invited lawmakers, prominent members of the Indian American community, and leading businessmen of the two countries, besides officials and diplomats, all of whom played a major role in pushing the deal, for the signing ceremony in the East Room at 12.20 am IST on Thursday (2.50 pm on Wednesday US time).