Bush in India for a possible civilian nuclear deal

 
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New Delhi, Mar 1: US President George Bush arrived here this evening to a red carpet welcome on a three-day landmark visit to India even as the two countries struggled to iron out differences on the implementation of July 18 Indo-US deal on civilian nuclear cooperation.

Reflecting the warmth in Indo-US relations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh broke the protocol and reached the airport with his wife Gurcharan Kaur to receive President Bush and his wife Laura.

Mr Bush was accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Chief of Staff Andrew Card and other senior US state department functionaries.

Amid unprecedented security, they were given a rousing welcome as soon as the President's aircraft--Air Force One--landed at the Air Force Station, Palam, at 1950 hrs.

Dressed in greyish black suit, a beaming Mr Bush alighted and shook hands with Dr Manmohan Singh, Minister in Waiting Kapil Sibal, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, US ambassador to India David Mulford and senior Indian and US officials.

As the lensmen clicked the US president and the prime minister, the two leaders were engaged in animated discussion for almost two minutes. Mr Bush then patted Mr Singh on the back before stepping into his black limousine to leave for Hotel Maurya Sheraton where he will stay for the next three days.

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Tomorrow, President Bush and Prime Minister Singh will receive the much-awaited report of the Indian-American CEOs' Forum which was constituted consequent to Dr Singh's visit to Washington in July 2005 and his signing of the July 18 agreement. There are ten representatives from each country in the CEOs' Forum which has been working on a common report for the two countries for taking forward the economic and trade relationship, particularly in investment in high-technology and infrastructure areas.

A presentation will be made to the two leaders.

The US Trade Representative will have a separate meeting with Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath to add a ''strong economic and trade content'' to the visit.

On March three, President Bush will leave for Hyderabad early in the morning. The visit to Hyderabad, although brief, will have ''significant and symbolic significance,'' Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said.

In Hyderebad, the US leader will visit the N G Ranga Agriculture University signalling cooperation between the two countries in Agriculture for kicking off a second Green Revolution in India.

''It has been a very impressive story of success for India in agriculture for a second Green Revolution.'' on fficial and President Bush will also interact with farmers and self-help groups, particularly of women, and young entrepreneurs.

On his return he will address a special gathering at Purana Qila. The address would be the main message to the people of India from the people of the US, the Foreign Secretary said.

Mr Saran said the visit, which comes after the Prime Minister's July 2005 tour to Washinton, will have a substantive agenda for taking forward Indo-US relations in the light of the July 18, 2005, agreement.

While some of the initiatives have been already implemented, some are under discussion. The vision put forward about the strategic relationship was on shared values and cooperation in a wide spectrum of areas including strategic and security issues, energy, counter-terrorism, trade and commerce, space and high-technology.

The visit will provide an occasion to review all that, the Foreign Secretary said.

The CEOs Forum would give recommendations on broader issues of energy cooperation. Experts from both countries have been cooperating through video conferencing. ''We can expect some important announcements as far as energy dialogue goes,'' Mr Saran said adding that there are a number of areas where the two countries are cooperating including ITER, zero emission, new and non-convertible sources of energy, bio-fuel and hydrogen fuel ''In ITER, we are happy to see that India is now a full partner.'' On agriculture, the Foreign Secretary said there are many areas of cooperation between the two countries. ''We are looking at cooperation which has a direct impact on Indian economy.'' In the high-tech areas, the two countries are looking at cooperation in nano-technology, IT, defence technology.

''India has considerably liberalised licensing for high-technology and would further liberalise it.'' There is also broadening of the framework for S and T cooperation.

In the field of space, significant progress has been made between the two countries including for US payloads for Indian moon mission.

However, the possibility of an Indian astronaut on board a US spaceship, as announced earlier, would not materialise as it was not feasible for Indian space agencies.

The two countries would also cooperate in the field of HIV/AIDS, Avian flu and coping with natural disasters.

''The visit would mark further maturation of relations,'' Mr Saran added.

UNI



UNI

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