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Indo-US legally bound to realise N-dream

The 123 agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation between India and the United States balances rights and obligations and is legally binding on both sides, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, reports V Krishna.

world Updated: Oct 12, 2008 10:58 IST
V Krishna

The 123 agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation between India and the United States balances rights and obligations and is legally binding on both sides, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday.

Mukherjee and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed the agreement at a ceremony in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, operationalising the deal three years after negotiations began.

“We intend to implement this agreement in good faith and in accordance with the principles of international law and I am confident that the U.S. will also do the same,” Mukherjee said at a press conference later.

When asked how much of the agreement rests on interpretation, he said, “We are bound by the agreed text of the 123 agreement which is negotiated by the negotiators of the two countries.”

To a question whether India intends to reject Congressional intent as expressed in the resolution of approval, he said, “Every country has its own process of legislation. We are bound by the agreement negotiated between the two sovereign countries, and in this case it is the 123 agreement.”

Mukherjee said the text of the agreement provides fuel supply assurances to India, “and it has been reiterated by the President's signing statement.”

The minister saw no reason for any apprehension in Pakistan. “We are determined to build good relations,” he said. Asked whether India would object to a similar deal between Pakistan and the United States, he said, “We would like to encourage peaceful nuclear cooperation.”

On whether U.S. firms would get preferential treatment in bidding for nuclear contracts, Mukherjee said, "The commercial aspect will be taken into account. But we are also aware of our expanding relationship with the United States.'

At the signing ceremony, Mukherjee described the agreement as path-breaking. "Today is an important day for India-U.S. relations, for global energy security and for our common endeavour to promote sustainable development while addressing environmental challenges,” he said.

Rice said, “The agreement we are about to sign is unprecedented. And it demonstrates the vast potential partnership between India and the United States, potential that, frankly, has gone unfulfilled for too many decades of mistrust and now potential that can be fully realised.”

That has been made possible, she said, by the statesmanship and courage of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush.

Industrialist Ratan Tata, PM's special envoy Shyam Saran, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, Atomic Energy Secretary Anil Kakodkar and Ambassador Ronen Sen were among the Indian dignitaries present.