It's final. It's done. Three years on, President George Bush signed into law the US-India civilian nuclear deal Wednesday at 2.25 pm by in the East Room of the White House.
More than 200 guests, including more than 100 Indian Americans, representatives of US business and industry who had also lobbied feverishly for the deal, heads of think tanks and academics, who were invited for the signing ceremony were on hand.
"I am honoured to sign legislation that builds on the growing ties between the world's largest democracies, India and the United States," Bush said.
He said he was impressed by the work Indian Americans leaders had done to get the bill through Congress, and thanked Congress, especially leadership of the House and Senate, and Congressional staff who had worked on the deal. Bush also spoke of the contributions made by the two leaders who have since died, Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos.
"I appreciate the hard work done by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I appreciate the work of the incredibly efficient US Ambassador to India David Malford," he said.
"Even if India and US are separated by half the globe, we are natural partners," Bush said, adding that India and the US have worked on a host of issues, including education, health, combating terrorism, etc.
"It was not long ago that our relations are strained but we worked to transform our partnership," he said. "And they were doing it though co-operation in energy. Three years ago, Prime Minister Singh (whom I consider, a dear friend) decided to worked on this civilian nuclear deal.
Bush said the agreement would also help address global non-proliferation efforts.
"The bill I signed today approved the 123 Agreement. The bill makes clear that it is consistent with the Atomic Energy Act and other US laws," he said. He pointed out that the legislation had no changes from the 123 Agreement he sent to Congress and also incorporated fuel assurances to India.
The ceremony was also attended by Vice President Dick Cheney, Rice (the driving force behind the deal) and Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman.
Also participating in the signing ceremony of HR 7081 known as the Berman bill, named after Congressman Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The House approved the bill September 27 by a vote of 298-117; the Senate followed suit October 1, slam-dunking the deal with an equally overwhelming vote of 86-13.
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was expected to make a one-day trip to Washington to sign the technical and formal instruments of the 123 Agreement with Secretary Rice either on Friday or Saturday at the State Department.
Although Rice made a one-day trip to Delhi October 4, she could not formally sign the agreement, since Bush had not signed the legislation, with India apparently insisting that the technical parts of the 123 Agreement that can envisage the operationalizing of the deal be inked only after Bush signed the accord.
Among those at the event were representatives of the American Jewish Committee, the US-India Business Council, and two people who are considered catalysts in pushing the deal through, former ambassador to India Robert Blackwill and nuclear strategic expert Ashley Tellis.
The lawmakers present were Congressmen Joe Crowley and Eliot Engel, both members of the House Foreign Committee on Foreign Affairs, , Senator John Warner, Senator Chris Dodd, the acting chair of the foreign relations committee, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
IMAGE: US President George Bush signing the historic nuclear deal on Wednesday.
Photograph: Paresh Gandhi