Bush Hails India Nuke Deal

President Bush, left, shares a laugh with Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during Kalam's toast at the start of the State Dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan, or the President's House, in New Delhi, India, Thursday, March 2, 2006. AP

On his first trip to India, President Bush and his Indian counterpart agreed Thursday on a landmark nuclear energy agreement that deepens ties between the world's oldest and largest democracies.

Mr. Bush acknowledged it will be difficult to persuade Congress to support the agreement, in which the United States would share its nuclear know-how and fuel with India. But he said he's confident it will be approved so India can power its fast-growing economy without expanding world demand for oil.

Under the terms of the agreement, India will open 14 of its 22 nuclear reactors to international inspection, as well as all future reactors, reports CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante. This deal does nothing to stop the growth of India's nuclear weapons program, but U.S. officials are betting that India's growing demand for electric power will mean a lot of nuclear reactors and billions of dollars in business for U.S. companies if Congress is willing to change the laws.

Critics in Congress say the White House is making an exception for India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"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," Mr. Bush said.

"But the other thing that our Congress has got to understand is that it's in our economic interests that India have a civilian nuclear power industry to help take the pressure off the global demand for energy," the president said. "To the extent that we can reduce demand for fossil fuels, it will help the American consumer."

A top U.S. official says the deal's not perfect, but that India has a powerful incentive to join the international nuclear mainstream: it badly needs more energy for its booming economy. And with coal too dirty and oil too unstable, India thinks American nuclear technology is the answer, CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

The agreement was a political coup, too, for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "We made history," he said, standing alongside Bush in a sunwashed courtyard.

Mr. Bush mourned the loss of life in a suicide bombing Thursday in Karachi, Pakistan, that ripped through the parking lot of the Marriott Hotel and broke windows in the nearby U.S. consulate. At least four people died, including a U.S. foreign service officer. The attack occurred hundreds of miles from Islamabad, where Mr. Bush was headed later this week.

"Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan," Mr. Bush said.

For a second day, thousands of demonstrators gathered in New Delhi to protest Mr. Bush's visit. Dozens of politicians, mainly from leftist parties, stood on the steps of the country's national parliament building chanting "Bush go back!" and "Down with Bush!"

"We're saying this because he is the biggest killer of humanity in the 21st century. He has killed in Afghanistan, he has killed Iraqis and now he is bent on killing Iranians," said Hannan Mollah, a lawmaker from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). "The Indian government should not get into any deal with the Americans. Bush has laid a trap for India."

In private meetings, Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Singh discussed regional and international subjects, including the U.S.-India relationship, terrorism, Pakistan and Nepal.

They announced new bilateral cooperation on an array of issues from investment to trade, health to the environment, agriculture to technology, and even mangoes. Mr. Bush agreed to resume imports of the juicy, large-pitted fruit after a ban of nearly two decades.

  • Joel Roberts

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