US Secretary of State arrives in India for talks on nuclear deal
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in New Delhi Saturday for talks with Indian officials days after a landmark civilian nuclear deal was approved by the Congress, reported dpa.
But it appeared clear that Rice and Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee would not be signing the 123 agreement that guides the deal due to administrative hitches.
"This was only passed in our Congress two days ago. The President (Bush) is looking forward to signing the bill sometime, I hope very soon," Rice said en route, according to a US State Department transcript.
Indian diplomatic sources said a signing of the agreement was not on the agenda during Rice's visit.
"In terms of what we signed, look, there are a lot of administrative details that have to be worked out," Rice was quoted as saying.
Bush must sign the Congressional bill approving the 123 agreement into law and make certain certifications relating to the US non-proliferation obligations before it can come into force, diplomatic sources said.
Rice was scheduled to hold talks with senior Indian leaders on Saturday including Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leader of the opposition LK Advani, whose Bharatiya Janata Party opposed the nuclear deal, before leaving for Kazakstan early Sunday.
She was expected to bring up the issue of terrorism in the South Asian region, besides discussing the deal and pushing for nuclear business for US companies.
The Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, which was agreed in principle by Bush and Singh in 2005, took three years of negotiations.
It allows US companies to export technology and materials for India's civilian nuclear energy programme ending a three-decade ban while India will open its reactors to international inspection.
The 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls international trade in fissile materials, changed its rules in September after a US request to allow nuclear trade with India, despite the country's refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
India currently has 14 reactors in commercial operation and another nine under construction. According to industry analysts, 25 more reactors are planned over the next 15 years, which would generate business worth an estimated 27 billion dollars.
US, French and Russian companies are in the race for the lucrative contracts.