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End of India nuclear ban paves way for U.S. trade deal

  • Story Highlights
  • End of nuclear trade ban paves way for U.S. civilian deal between U.S., India
  • White House: Decision strengthens strategic partnership between the nations
  • India can now access U.S. nuclear fuel, technology for civilian nuclear power plants
  • India promises not to transfer the fuel, equipment to its weapons program
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(CNN) -- The leaders of the United States and India on Saturday hailed a decision by 45 nations that withdraws a worldwide ban on nuclear trade with India.

The move in Vienna on Saturday by the Nuclear Suppliers Group helps pave the way for the passage of a proposed civil nuclear deal between the United States and India by the U.S. Congress.

The White House said President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke by phone on Saturday and "congratulated each other" over the decision by the group, made up of the United States and other nations that supply nuclear material and technology.

The White House called the development a "product of an unprecedented three-year effort" and a key move toward "strengthening the strategic partnership" between the countries.

"This is a historic achievement that strengthens global nonproliferation principals while assisting India to meet its energy requirements in an environmentally friendly manner," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

The White House thanked the governments in the group, and singled out Germany for its role in the process.

Singh hailed the decision on Saturday by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna, Austria "to adjust its guidelines to enable full civil nuclear cooperation with India."

He called the decision "forward-looking and momentous" and said "it marks the end of India's decades long isolation from the nuclear mainstream and of the technology denial regime."

"It is a recognition of India's impeccable non-proliferation credentials and its status as a state with advanced nuclear technology. It will give an impetus to India's pursuit of environmentally sustainable economic growth."

He said the opening of "full civil nuclear cooperation between India and the international community will be good for India and for the world."

External Affairs Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee praised the efforts of the United States, France, United Kingdom and Russia and the support from the present and former NSG chairs -- Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

"This decision will open a new chapter in India's cooperation with other countries in peaceful uses of nuclear energy," Mukherjee said.

The tentative deal was announced in 2006 and signed by Bush and Singh a year ago.

Under the agreement, which will need to be approved by the U.S. Congress, India would have access to U.S. nuclear fuel and technology for its civilian nuclear power plants. That would happen even though New Delhi, which tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and 1998, has declined to join international non-proliferation agreements.

In return, India has promised that it would not transfer the fuel and equipment to its weapons program, and it would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect at least 14 of its 22 nuclear plants.

The plan would also expand U.S.-India cooperation in energy and satellite technology. The plan was approved by India's Cabinet last year, and does not have to be ratified by the parliament.

The deal had been threatened in July, when Singh was subject to a no-confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament. He survived the vote, which was sparked by concerns from the opposition that India was kowtowing to the United States.

The leaders of India's two communist parties -- which hold about 60 seats in Parliament -- had accused Singh of surrendering India's sovereignty to the United States with the deal.

A no-confidence vote would have forced Singh to resign, and required the government to hold early elections unless a new coalition could have been formed.

CNN's Bharati Naik contributed to this report

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