India may sign 123 Agreement on October 10
The Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal — or the so-called 123 Agreement — is expected to be signed in Washington on October 10, two days after the US President George W Bush would sign into law the legislation in this regard passed by the US Congress last week.
Informative sources in the State Department told NDTV.com that the External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to arrive in Washington later this week to ink the deal with his US counterpart, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The 123 Agreement was initially expected to be signed over the weekend in New Delhi during the visit of Rice to India. But this could not be signed because of what the officials termed as procedural matters.
However, it is believed that India was reluctant to sign the agreement before Bush signs the US India Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and Enhancement Act into law. The Act was passed by the Congress last week.
At a function at the White House on October 8, President Bush is scheduled to sign the bill in presence of a select group of Indian-American leaders and eminent officials and lawmakers who played a key role in its Congressional passage.
The signing of the 123 Agreement — the text of which has already been agreed upon and was released by both the US and Indian governments on August 3, 2007 — would bring to an end the process which was started with the issuing of a joint statement by Bush and the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005, when the latter visited Washington on a state visit.
The agreement would also start a new era of relationship between India and the US, with the American corporate world entering into separate agreements with India on civilian use of nuclear technology by India, mostly for generation of electricity.
A number of US companies have already expressed their keen interest in entering into business tie up with India in the field of civilian nuclear energy. With the US economy in a bad shape, US companies and the Bush Administration now expects that the Indian Government would expedite the process.
India has insisted that all international players would get a level playing field and economical viability of the projects would be the sole criteria while awarding projects. Besides US companies, those from Russia and France too are vying for Indian nuclear energy projects. France already inked a deal with India last week when Manmohan Singh was in Paris.