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Bush to discuss global, bilateral issues during South Asia tour

Written by: Staff

Washington, Feb 25: President George W Bush begins his first ever visit to India and Pakistan next week in what the White House describes as basically "a celebration of a Indo-US strategic partnership that is rooted in shared values and is broad in both its nature and scope".

According to US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, after ceremonial welcome to Mr Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at New Delhi, the US President will visit Rajghat to lay a wreath at Mahatma Gandhi's Samadhi.

Briefing reporters on the historic visit of Mr Bush to India and Pakistan beginning March 1, Mr Hadley said, ''This is the first trip of the President and Ms Bush to either country and they are very much looking forward to it.'' Listing the range of issues that President Bush will touch upon during his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Hadley said it will include counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, energy, environment, and the expansion of economic and political freedom.

The two leaders will also discuss the strong relationship between India and the US and their cooperation on these global issues and a variety of bilateral issues as well, he added.

Giving a broad outline of President's itinerary, Mr Hadley said Mr Bush will participate in a joint press conference with the Prime Minister, they will have lunch, and later the President and Ms Bush will attend a State dinner hosted by President APJ Abdul Kalam.

Mr Bush will also meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Mr L K Advani.

President Bush will also meet with a diverse group of religious leaders to discuss religious freedom.

He will also callon the employees in the US embassy, he said.

Other activities of Bush will be a meeting with members of the US-India Chief Executive Officer Forum, which was launched during Prime Minister Manmohan Gandhi's visit to Washington in July last year, Mr Hadley said.

This will provide the President an opportunity to hear from these business leaders in India, and they will apprise the two leaders and their governments of wasys to expand trade and investment between to nations, he added.

Mr Hadley said Indo-US economic ties have been growing rapidly, and they benefit the people of both countries, as the President described in his address to the Asia Society here on Wednesday.

"US exports to India were up over 30 per cent last year, making India one of our fastest-growing major export markets", he said.

Before traveling to Pakistan, Mr Bush will participate in an agricultural event, an area where India and the United States have cooperated off and on for some 40 years, and he will meet with young Indian entrepreneurs.

Mr Bush will then deliver remarks which underline the importance of Indo-US bilateral relations and the role that "our two nations can play together in dealing with global issues", Mr Hadley said.

In Pakistan, the National Security Adviser said Mr Bush will meet with President General Pervez Musharraf and discuss commitments of both the countries to strengthen their bilateral ties.

"Since 9/11, Pakistan has become an ally in the war on terror.

It has made very tough choices, but it has made those choices because they were right for the people of Pakistan", Mr Hadley said.

The discussions between the two leaders will likely be on how "we can cooperate to support Pakistan's important role in encouraging greater economic integration in South and Central Asia". In addition to meeting with President Musharraf, President Bush will participate in a meeting on the earthquake reconstruction efforts, in which the US and its military participated.

President Bush and President Musharraf will also participate in a joint media availability.

Later, the President and his wife will attend a State dinner hosted by Gen Musharraf.

Mr Bush will participate in a roundtable discussion with leaders in Pakistan's public and private sectors. He will also meet with the US Embassy employees in Islamabad.

He is also scheduled to participate in a cricket event, Mr Hadley said calling the sport 'a very popular one in South Asia'.


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