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India, US Conclude Civil Nuclear Deal
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India and the United States have pushed forward their strategic partnership by clinching a civil nuclear deal and a number of cooperation deals in trade, agriculture, science and technologies on Thursday.

The two countries finalized the plan to separate India's civilian and military nuclear facilities, a breakthrough to realize the Indo-US overall civil nuclear cooperation, after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a two-hour talk with visiting US President George W. Bush on the second day of his visit to India.

New Delhi is in the air that the two countries are coming closer and bilateral relations seemed at an all time best.

Singh announced that while India had "successfully" prepared plan for separation of its civilian and military nuclear reactors, it was now up to the US Congress to take it further.

In response, Bush said: "I am looking forward to working with our United States Congress to change decades of law that will enable us to move forward in this important initiative."

The nuclear deal, first reached during Singh's visit to Washington in July last year, will allow India access to uranium, US civilian nuclear technology and bring India out of nuclear isolation.

There are concerns that the move will set a bad example for other countries as India has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty after it conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

To address the concerns, Bush said: "Proliferation is certainly a concern and a part of our discussions, and we've got a good faith gesture by the Indian government that I'll be able to take to the Congress."

New Delhi and Washington have had a hard bargain on finalizing a separation plan that satisfied both. They used to have differences over whether India's fast breeder reactor and some other research projects should be put in civilian list.

How these differences were ironed out are yet to be revealed as the Indian government did not release the details of the plan.

But New Delhi Television quoted sources as saying that India planned to open 14 of its 22 reactors for international inspection.

Two days before Bush's arrival here for a three-day visit, Singh had assured the Indian Parliament that India would not, in any case, put its fast-breeder reactors under international safeguards.

With the separation plan sealed, Bush will have to push the Congress to amend the law and get the Nuclear Suppliers' Group to accept it so that Washington can fulfill its promise to supply fuel and technologies to New Delhi.

Besides progress in the nuclear deal, the two countries added more on their bilateral ties development.

"Many of the areas that our cooperation now covers are essential to India's national development. They include energy, agriculture, science and technology, trade and investment, high technology, health and a clean environment. This is a highly ambitious agenda, one that is befitting our growing strategic partnership," Singh said.

The joint statement, announced by the two leaders Thursday, outlined how India and the United States endorsed the efforts of the US-India Trade Policy Forum on reduction of barriers to trade and investment, aiming at doubling bilateral trade in three years.

The two nations also agreed to expand cooperation in agriculture, science and technology, and civil space, including space exploration, satellite navigation and earth science.

(Xinhua News Agency March 3, 2006)

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