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PM ‘happy’ at House nod to deal

By Manish Chand, IANS,

New York : As the US House of Representatives Saturday passed the 123 agreement by a clear majority, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was happy to hear about it and expressed confidence that the deal will complete “the last lap” soon.

“The India-US nuclear deal is in the interests of India, the US and the world at large,” Manmohan Singh told over 400 eminent Indian-Americans at a gala reception at Hotel Waldorf Astoria here.

“I should thank (US President) George Bush for this,” a beaming Manmohan Singh said a couple of hours before heading to France after wrapping up his five-day visit to the US.

“The prime minister is happy and has expressed confidence that the deal will complete the last lap,” Indian ambassador to US Ronen Sen, who hosted the reception, said.

The news of the House clearing the 123 agreement by an overwhelming 298-117 vote triggered waves of jubilation among Indian-Americans who had actively batted for the nuclear deal through its difficult stages.

Manmohan Singh also thanked the Indian-American community for their support in promoting the deal.

“It is in no small measure due to the very supportive role the Indian American community and the friends of India in the US have played. I thank you all for this,” he said to loud cheers from the community that turned out in full regalia on the day the Congress is expected to finally say yes to the deal.

“The historic agreement on cooperation in the development of civilian nuclear energy in India that President George Bush and I embarked upon is nearing fruition,” Manmohan Singh added.

The prime minister underlined that the nuclear deal will “add an important strategic pillar” to India-US ties and widen the country’s “clean energy options”.

“The rise of India is a force of peace, development and stability in the world. However, we still have many hurdles to cross. I am confident that our country has the will and the ability to meet the challenge of change,” he said.

“Thanks to the leadership of President (George) Bush and the friendship of the people of the United States we are on the verge of securing a new status in the global nuclear order,” the prime minister said.

“India will be liberated from the constraints of technology denial of 34 years,” he said to ringing applause from the audience.

Manmohan Singh added that the deal was “also a result of a convergence of shared interests and common concerns” and underscored that “support for a strong India-US relationship cuts across party lines in both India and the US.”

“The overall sentiment that emerges from our respective domestic debates is a strong positive endorsement of our strategic partnership,” he said while alluding to common threats and challenges of terrorism, energy security, proliferation, climate change and environmental degradation.

Fleshing out the character of India-US relationship, which continues to attract hostility from some ideologues in India, he stressed that bilateral ties were based on “the twin pillars of both principles and pragmatism”.

Unstinting in his praise of over two million strong Indian-American community, whose success has transformed American perception of India, the prime minister said: “You have become the “brain bank” of the country of your adoption.”

“I hope that you will also become the “brain bridge” between our two countries in frontier areas of technology as well as in trade and investment,” he added.

“The Indian American community inspires people of Indian origin around the world with its leadership, its enterprise and creativity,” the prime minister said while alluding to winners of Nobel and Abel prizes, great writers and artists, business leaders and scientists among the Indian-American community.

“We are all inspired by the life and achievement of Sunita Williams and Kalpana Chawla; of Indira Nooyi and Vikram Pandit; of Jhumpa Lahiri and Mira Nair; of Srinivasa Varadhan and Sabeer Bhatia,” he said mentioning the marquee names among Indo-Americans who have put India on the global map.

Alluding to India’s emergence as a major democratic power and an open economy he exhorted the Indian-American community to become “an active partner in this saga of adventure and enterprise, and build an India free from the fear of want and exploitation”.

“A people who now live on every continent of our planet. A people on whom the sun never sets!” he said loftily.