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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

With nuclear deal a step away, Manmohan heads to New York

With the US pulling out all stops to get the Congressional nod for the India-US nuclear deal in a couple of days, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday left for New York where he will address the UN General Assembly before he meets US President George W. Bush in Washington.

Manmohan Singh and Bush will not sign the 123 bilateral nuclear pact when they meet in the White House Thursday, but there is a strong likelihood that the two principal architects of the India-US nuclear entente will formally announce the consummation of the deal, leaving the actual signing for a later stage.

The business committee of the US Congress is likely to take a decision Tuesday on waiving the mandatory condition of the 30-day period for the legislation to be considered by Congress. It will also decide if there will be a separate or joint resolution of Congress to approve the 123 pact by an up and down vote.

Besides the nuclear deal which will be in the global eye, Manmohan Singh and Bush will focus on taking India-US ties to new heights by focusing on expanding cooperation across a wide spectrum of areas, including business, agriculture education and high-technology trade.

With business on mind, Manmohan Singh, the economist credited with opening India's inward-looking economy in 1991, will meet World Bank president Robert B Zoellick and CEOs of leading American companies at a lunch to be hosted by India's ambassador to the US Ronen Sen.

Looking beyond the Bush and White House, he will also meet Republican presidential candidate John McCain and have a telephone chat with Democratic contender Barack Obama to sustain bipartisan momentum for bolstering India-US ties.

Although his meeting with Bush and the fate of the nuclear deal will hog global limelight, Manmohan Singh has a substantial agenda in New York before he goes to Washington.

With the NSG waiver brining India out of the nuclear cold after a gap of over three decades, Manmohan Singh will harness India's added global weight to press for "collective and multilateral approach" to global problems ranging from food and energy security to terrorism, the UN reforms and nuclear disarmament.

This will be his second address to the UN General Assembly Friday. He skipped the UNGA in 2006 and 2007.

As Pakistan sinks into a downward spiral of violence and anarchy due to militancy in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, his meeting with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday will be keenly watched at home as well as in Washington which has lately stepped up pressure on Islamabad to deliver on the war against terror.

With terror blasts in Delhi fresh in mind, Manmohan Singh is set to convey a strong pointed message to Zardari to end cross-border terror and ceasefire violations that have cast a shadow on bilateral ties. It will also be an opportunity for Manmohan Singh to gauge Zardari's clout in the new dispensation in Pakistan that seems to be torn between multiple centres of power in that country.

In yet another important sideshow on the sidelines of the UNGA, Manmohan Singh will meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Wednesday - the first meeting between the two leaders since reports of Beijing's negative role in the Nuclear Supply Group (NSG) cast its shadow on ties between the two countries. With Beijing sending positive feelers, India does not want to stretch the NSG issue further and will be keen to focus on greater cooperation on global issues.

The prime minister will also meet British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi and Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba on the sidelines of the UNGA.

(Source: Economic Times, India)

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