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Thank you, Mr President
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi |
March 01, 2006 21:22 IST
Last Updated: March 03, 2006 10:48 IST
Thank You President Bush!
This is what Prime Minister is most likely to say when President George Bush meets him in New Delhi, says a source in the Prime Minister's Office.
A source elaborated that President Bush's visit will help India come out of nuclear apartheid and he will also be thanked because he is the first US leader who backed India's case on the outsourcing issue. The nuclear issue and the economy are two good enough reasons for New Delhi to roll out red carpet for the US President, said a sources in PMO just hours before his arrival.
It's time to consolidate on what was achieved in July 18, 2005 agreement between Singh and Bush, is the Indian thinking.
All diplomatic, political, economical and cultural signals in New Delhi suggest that Bush's visit will be a success.
Although there are differences on many issues -- like the US stand on Pakistan's nuclear proliferation and abetting of terrorism and issue of fugitive Indian sleuth Rabinder Singh being given refuge in US -- and opposition within both countries, the developments in the last 24 hours suggest that both sides mean business.
India and the US are likely to strengthen relations in agriculture, space and trade. The positive soundbytes from President Bush in support for India's candidature for permanent membership on United Nations Security Council will also please the Indian side.
K Subrahamanayam, strategic expert who supports Indo-US strategic partnership, told rediff.com, "Bush has said negotiations on the nuclear deal were on even as he was on board Air Force One enroute to South Asia. The fact that Secertary of State Condoleezza Rice is flying with Bush is a hint that they mean business. Normally, Rice doesn't fly with Bush."
Foreign secretary Shyam Saran said Tuesday that India is 'pretty close' to finalizing the deal, while the cautious US side is telling the media that the Bush visit is for a 'total relationship' and that it is not just about the nuclear deal.
People who know how such summits are planned and organised say Singh would not have spoken in Parliament on February 27 about the civil nuclear energy cooperation with the US without making sure that Bush will not come empty-handed.
Singh had said then: "The proposed separation plan entails identifying in phases, a number of our thermal nuclear reactors as civilian facilities to be placed under IAEA safeguards, amounting to roughly 65 percent of the total installed thermal nuclear power capacity".
He elaborated on statistics because the previous government had reportedly offered 69 percent of installed capacity for safeguards.
Dr Singh's supporters argue that the calibrated media coverage of the Bush visit is meant to ensure that it is a win-win situation for both Bush and Singh.
If somehow the nuclear deal is not signed before Bush leaves, Singh's spin masters can always say that, "The prime minister has steadfastly resisted US pressure to protect India's national interest."
And if it is, the credit will seemingly go to Bush for carrying it through. It seems clever media management by the American team, to ensure that if the deal is signed, the importance of March 2 is enormous.
If one goes by an unprecedented demand for invitations to the lunch and dinner to be hosted for Bush on Thursday, the US President is likely to be overwhelmed by the reception in India. The only dampener can be ultra-tight security ring around Bush.
The Indian media has been generally supportive of Indo-US relations. The television new channels are abuzz with the Bush visit. The Western media has also joined in with The Economist and Time doing cover stories on the visit.
But there are those who oppose the growing relations with the US.
While Congress President Sonia Gandhi has backed Singh in his efforts to cement the nuclear deal her office is quite apprehensive about the fact that secular and minority constituencies of the Congress are skeptical of America and hate Bush.
In Delhi, more than two lakh people joined protests against the Bush visit at the Ram Leela Maidan which was organised by the Jamiat–Ulama-I-Hind.
Rice also put a dampener just before embarking on Air Force One. She told reporters, "The one thing that is absolutely necessary is that any agreement would assure that once India has decided to put a reactor under safeguard that it remain permanently under safeguard."
Her statement is not in tune with what Singh told Parliament. He has said, "The United States has implicitly acknowledged the existence of our nuclear weapons programme. There was also public recognition that as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technologies, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other states which have advanced nuclear technology, such as the United States."
US does have provision to shift the reactors from civil to military and vice-versa. Rice says India cannot do it.
Dr A N Prasad, retired nuclear scientist, says, "This is inequality. It goes against what the July 18 agreement and what Singh stated in Parliament twice that India will be treated at par with US."
Even, Subrahamnayam agrees that it is a contentious issue but he argues, "The US has said that India is an exception. They believe formulations of non-nuclear states cannot be applied to India."
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