But the pact has sparked concerns among some nuclear proliferation experts since India will receive these benefits without signing a nonproliferation treaty.
The agreement, which still must get U.S. congressional approval, was the cornerstone of President Bush’s first visit to the world’s largest democracy.
“We have concluded an historic agreement today on nuclear power,” the president said at a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“What this agreement says is things change, times change. … This agreement is in our interest and therefore I am confident we can sell this to our Congress,” said Mr. Bush, according to Reuters.
The deal also is expected to allow atomic trade between India and other nuclear powers if the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a cluster of nations that controls global nuclear transactions, also lifts curbs on New Dehli, Reuters reported.
U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised the pact.
“It would be a milestone, timely for ongoing efforts to consolidate the nonproliferation regime, combat nuclear terrorism and strengthen nuclear safety,” said IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
The nuclear agreement, however, has some opposition in Congress because India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said he expects “broad-scale international support.”
But critics in the United States were quick to condemn the deal.
“With one simple move the President has blown a hole in the nuclear rules that the entire world has been playing by and broken his own word to assure that we will not ship nuclear technology to India without the proper safeguards,” U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said in a statement. “The United States has now pushed over a nuclear domino that falls against 187 other nations — all signers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty — to review why they should honor a document which the nuclear superpowers no longer respect.”
Mr. Bush, mindful of opposition in Congress, on Thursday called the deal “a necessary agreement”.
“Proliferation is certainly a concern and a part of our discussions and we’ve got a good-faith gesture by the Indian Government that I’ll be able to take to the Congress,” he said.
Details of the deal were hazy, but Reuters quoted sources as saying India agreed to list 14 of its 22 reactors as civilian and open them to scrutiny.
President Bush’s three-day visit to India was fifth for a U.S. president and was viewed as recognition by Washington of India’s economic and strategic importance.