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External Affairs Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee's opening remarks at a press conference in Washington, DC

Washington, DC 
October 10, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,

Earlier today, Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and I signed the Agreement between the Government of India and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, which is also known as the 123 Agreement. This is a historic occasion. It marks the beginning of resumption of India’s civil nuclear cooperation and trade with the US and with the wider international community. 

As you know, India attaches great importance to this Agreement and to civil nuclear commerce with the international community. The increased share of nuclear energy in our energy mix will make a major positive contribution to our sustainable development and to meeting our objective of eradicating poverty. We, therefore, see this as a critical development for our economic growth and development. The Agreement is also important for global energy security as well as a contribution to global efforts to meet the challenge of climate change.

We are happy that the Agreement was passed without any amendments by large bipartisan majorities in both Houses of the US Congress. This reflects strong support for stronger India-US relations and for the transformation that these relations have undergone in the last few years.

The significance of this Agreement is that it is the first step to civil nuclear co-operation and trade between India and the USA. The Agreement reflects a careful balance of rights and obligations for both parties. We intend to implement this Agreement in good faith and in accordance with the principles of international law and I am confident that the US will also do the same. 

It is also the first step to India’s cooperation with the rest of the world in civil nuclear energy. By reinforcing and increasing the nuclear element in our country’s energy mix, which is vital to sustain our growth rate, nuclear power will directly boost industrial growth, rural development and help us to expand every vital sector of our economy. It also enables India to respond with her global partners to the challenges of climate change and global warming by strengthening her own economic growth and sustainable development. 

The signing of this agreement has also been preceded by the unanimous approval by the IAEA Board of Governors of the related safeguards arrangements, and by the consensus decision of the forty-five member Nuclear Supply Group to enable cooperation by its members in peaceful uses of nuclear energy with India.

Today’s signing would not have been possible if it were not for the sustained support and effort of the US Administration led by President Bush. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been a pillar of strength through this process of realizing the joint vision of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the numerous supporters of the agreement, particularly the Indian-American community in the US, whose unstinting help contributed immensely to achieving this successful outcome. 

Thank you for your attention. I would be happy to answer your questions.