Vienna: India on Saturday secured a historic waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) by consensus to carry out nuclear commerce, ending 34 years of isolation and taking the Indo-US nuclear deal a step closer to fruition.
Overcoming fierce obstacles after three days of tortuous negotiations that saw China, Austria, Ireland and New Zealand holding out till the last minute, the revised US draft finally got the approval of the 45-member NSG.
The deal will now go to the US Congress for approval in the next few weeks before it can be operationalised.
A relieved US President George W Bush spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over telephone from Washington and praised his "strong leadership" for the success at the NSG. The call came shortly after the nuclear cartel's approval at the end of unscheduled extended discussions.
"After protracted negotiations, the NSG today adopted an exemption for nuclear exports to India," the Austrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, climaxing months of lobbying by US and India to get the atomic trade embargo lifted.
The US was euphoric after the NSG decision with its acting Secretary of State for Arms Control John Rood saying the NSG waiver was a "landmark decision" and an "important moment" for strengthening the global non-proliferation regime.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement on Friday that India was committed to strengthening the non-proliferation regime and maintaining a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing played a crucial role in bringing on board the sceptics.