NEW DELHI, March 2 (AFP): US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday sealed what they hailed as an "historic" nuclear deal, seen as the bedrock of a new strategic partnership.
The agreement came during intensive talks in the Indian capital which also touched on economic ties and cooperation in space travel, agriculture and health, officials said.
"This historic accomplishment will permit our countries to move forward towards our common objective of full civil nuclear energy cooperation between India and the United States and between India and the international community as a whole," the leaders said in a joint statement.
"I was particularly pleased that we have reached an understanding on the implementation of our agreement on civil nuclear cooperation of July 18, 2005 ... we have made history today," Singh told reporters.
"We concluded today an historic agreement on nuclear power ... it is a necessary agreement, it will help both our peoples," added Bush at a joint press conference.
The deal, the highlight of Bush's three-day trip to India, commits Washington to seek approval from the US Congress and countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to lift restrictions on sharing civilian nuclear technology with nuclear-armed India.
"Now it is for the US to go to Congress for the necessary amendments and it will approach the Nuclear Suppliers Group," Singh said.
Thursday's agreement capped months of negotiations after Bush and Singh agreed on the broad outlines of a deal during Singh's visit to Washington last July.
In response Pakistan said it expects Washington to give it the same kind of civilian nuclear cooperation as it had just extended to arch-rival India.
China said the nuclear cooperation deal must conform to the rules of the global non-proliferation regime.
"Cooperation must conform with the requirements and provisions of the international non-proliferation regime and the obligations undertaken by all countries," said foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
Bush at the joint press conference paid glowing tribute to burgeoning Indo-US ties, declaring India a partner on all fronts.
"Our trade and investment ties are growing, we are partners in expanding global trade," he said. "The US is India's largest trading partner and India is one of the United States' fastest growing expert markets."
Last year US exports to India jumped by more than 30 per cent compared with 20 per cent growth in Indian exports to the United States.
Bilateral merchandise trade amounted to nearly 27 billion dollars, seen by officials as way below its potential.