- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

The nuclear-power plant deal signed by the U.S. and India is expected to lead to significant sales for U.S. companies, business officials said yesterday.

The U.S.-India Business Council said the change marked “a defining moment in U.S.-India relations, reminiscent of [former President Richard M.] Nixon’s opening to China.”

Other international agreements must be signed before sales can go through.

But Teresita C. Schaffer, director of the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the agreement signed by President Bush yesterday was the most difficult of the four steps that need to be taken for civilian nuclear-technology sales to be made to India.

Mr. Bush cited the economic importance of the new law during the signing ceremony at the White House yesterday, noting that India’s economy has more than doubled in size since 1991.

Moreover, he said, India is the world’s fifth-largest energy user and its electricity demand is expected to double by 2015.

“The United States has a clear interest in helping India meet this demand with nuclear energy,” Mr. Bush said.

“By helping India expand its use of safe nuclear energy, this bill lays the foundation for a new strategic partnership between our two nations that will help ease India’s demands for fossil fuels and ease pressure on global markets,” he said.

Ron Sommers, the president of the U.S.-India Business Council, said the move had broad implications for the U.S.-India relationship.

“This is more than simply sharing of civilian nuclear technology. This is about removing the cinder from the eye that had been the nagging aspect in our relationship for the last three decades,” he said.

“And in removing this cinder from the eye, we’re very hopeful that we’re going to see a further convergence of our two economies and the alignment of our two great democracies for the 21st century,” he said.

The business council said India’s nuclear industry has announced plans to greatly increase its generating capacity, an expansion estimated to be worth $150 billion over the next 26 years.

That expansion could lead to substantial business for U.S. companies.

Timothy J. Richards, senior manager for international trade and investment at General Electric, called the development “very important,” given India’s plans for new generating capacity.

“This is a very substantial growth area.

“The fact that the United States is changing its policy and approaching India, looking to open civilian nuclear trade with India, is extremely important,” he said.

GE and Westinghouse Electric Co., which did not return calls for comment, are among companies in line to supply India with equipment and fuel for reactors if the agreement is enacted.

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