Bush signs Indian nuclear deal into law

George W. Bush has signed legislation that will set a US-India civilian nuclear agreement in motion and end a ban forbidding atomic energy trade with India in place since 1974.


US President George W. Bush on Wednesday signed legislation to enact a landmark US-India civilian nuclear agreement, celebrating "the growing ties between the world's two largest democracies."

"This agreement sends a signal to the world: Nations that follow the path to democracy and responsible behavior will find a friend in the United States of America," Bush said at a lavish White House signing ceremony.

Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will visit Washington Friday to Washington so that he and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can formally sign the accord itself, the US State Department announced.

Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the deal in July 2005, touching off a difficult battle with wary lawmakers on either side and critics who warn it undermines global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear know-how.

"Today I have the honor of signing legislation that builds on the growing ties beween the world's two largest democracies," the US president said, savoring a major diplomatic victory in the twilight of his term.

The agreement offers India access to sophisticated US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for allowing UN inspections of some of its civilian nuclear facilities -- but not military nuclear sites.

Washington imposed a ban on US-Indian civilian nuclear trade after India's first nuclear test in 1974, but US officials have said a new approach is needed to help the world's largest democracy meet its booming energy needs at a time of skyrocketing oil prices and global warming fears.

"Even though the United States and India are separated by half the globe, we are natural partners as we head into the 21st century," said the US president.

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