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Manmohan defends N-bill, Bush signs it

india Updated: Dec 19, 2006 02:07 IST
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A few hours before US President George W Bush signed the Indo-US nuclear cooperation-enabling legislation into law in a special ceremony in Washington, the Indian Parliament in New Delhi debated whether the deal was good for India.

Before signing the Bill into law, Bush, who was effusive in his praise for India and its Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said the legislation would be good for both countries he called "natural partners," enabling US companies to invest in meeting India's energy requirements.

But with voices critical of the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation deal getting increasingly strident in India, Prime Minister Singh on Monday conceded in Parliament that the negotiations ahead would be difficult. Calling the legislation a step forward, Singh reiterated assurances he had earlier given Parliament that India's strategic programme would not be compromised.

He reaffirmed that details of India's strategic programme had been kept out of the purview of discussions that led to the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement between him and President Bush, and subsequently to the deal that became law today.

"Clearly, difficult negotiations lie ahead," Singh said, intervening during a four and a half hour debate on the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation deal in the Lok Sabha.

"There are areas which continue to be a cause for concern, and we will need to discuss them with the US Administration before the bilateral cooperation  (123) agreement can be finalised," he said.