Apparently unhappy over US President George W Bush's contention that the assured fuel supplies are 'not legally binding', India on Friday asserted that the 123 agreement, when operational, will be a 'legal document' in accordance with 'well-recognised principles' of international law and the Law of Treaties.
Coverage: Indo-US Nuclear Tango
The Ministry of External Affairs said India's civil nuclear cooperation with the US will be 'guided' only by the 123 agreement, which clearly spells out the respective rights and obligations of the two countries.
"The text of the India-US 123 agreement has been agreed upon by the governments of India and the United States. It is a public document," MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna said while responding to questions over Bush's contention that the assured fuel supplies to India are 'not legally binding'.
Bush's memorandum to the US Congress, while presenting the 123 agreement for consideration, said the accord records certain political commitments concerning reliable nuclear fuel supply assurances but does not transform them into legally binding commitments.
Sarna said 'once this (123) inter-governmental agreement enters into force, the agreement would become a legal document in accordance with well-recognised principles of international law and the Law of Treaties'.
Underlining that the civil nuclear cooperation with the US will be 'guided' by the 123 agreement alone, Sarna said the 'rights and obligations' of the two countries are 'clearly spelt out in the terms and provisions' of this pact.
"India-US civil nuclear cooperation will be carried out on the basis of respective rights and obligations of the two sides as contained in the agreement. By doing so, the government will ensure that India's rights are fully protected," the MEA spokesman said.
Official sources said the observation made by Bush in his determination to the US Congress amounts to interpretation of the 123 agreement 'differently'.
The 123 agreement clearly specifies the responsibility of the US to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies even if it terminates its own cooperation with India due to some reason.
The 123 agreement makes it incumbent on the US to supply fuel by itself and by working with 'friends and allies' to enable India to obtain 'full access to the international fuel market, including reliable, uninterrupted and continual access to fuel supplies from firms in several nations,' sources said, referring to the pact reached last year.
Bush's remarks come close on the heels of coming to light of a State Department letter in which the US has made it clear that it will stop fuel supplies and other nuclear cooperation if India conducts a nuclear test.
New Delhi is expected to take up the matter with Washington to seek clarity on these which have the potential of creating uncertainty over the fuel supplies issue, the sources said.