If Americans had not been confronting their worst financial crisis in over 70 years, not to mention a presidential election, the US-India civilian nuclear agreement may have made a bigger splash here. The irony is that when President Bush signed the deal today, it was termed a signature achievement of his administration, and yet it passes by relatively un-noticed, as his approval ratings stay mired in the low 20s.
Here are the president's remarks on the deal, as per the Associated Press:
"By undertaking new cooperation on civil nuclear energy, India will be able to count on a reliable fuel supply for its civilian reactors, meet the energy demands of its people, and reduce its independence on fossil fuels," Bush said at a ceremony in the East Room. "For our part, the United States will gain access to a growing market for civilian nuclear technologies and materials that will help American businesses create more jobs for our people here at home."
Today's signing came a week after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the deal (see the vote breakdown: all Republicans voted yes). The House of Representatives passed it on September 27, by a vote of 298 to 117 (breakdown). And it was three years after the nuclear deal was initially proposed by Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Just three months ago, Singh passed through his trial by fire: a confidence vote brought on by opposition to the deal; he won the vote and his Congress party remained in power, but only after losing integrity, as reports surfaced that many votes were obtained through bribes.
For a complete chronology of the deal, from July 28, 2005 through today's signing, check out the timeline at The Economic Times.
- Press Trust of India: "Bush inked the authorising legislation finally approved by the US Congress last week in a high profile ceremony at the White House's ornate East Room reversing 34 years of US policy to eventually allow American businesses to have a share of India's 100 billion dollar nuclear pie."
- Los Angeles Times blog: "Bush's success in squeezing the legislation out of Congress in its final days reflected, once again, the ability of a lame-duck president with approval ratings below 30% and facing a hostile House and Senate to nonetheless achieve some top priorities."