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It's official: PM won't ink N-deal with Bush

Renu Mittal on Board the Prime Minister's Special Aircraft | September 23, 2008 01:10 IST

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The grave financial meltdown facing the US economy is being seen as both a cause of worry and optimism by the Indian government as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] left for the United States, eager to return home with the nuclear deal wrapped up, signalling the start of a new relationship between the two countries.

India won't renegotiate 123 Agreement

Highly placed sources, who are closely monitoring the US situation, admitted that passing of the 123 Agreement by the US Congress could be hampered by the financial crisis or alternatively, it could lead to the process being passed with ease.

There was cautious optimism in the prime minister's delegation even as there were no on record briefings and the prime minister himself choosing not to interact with the accompanying media on the first leg of his journey to Frankfurt.

Senior officials, however, made it clear that even if the 123 agreement was passed, it would not be signed by the prime minister during his Washington meeting with President Bush at the Oval office in the White House on September 25 at 5.10 pm.

After the meeting there would be a 'working dinner' between the two leaders from 6 to 7 pm in the Old Family Dining Room, the officials added.

Clearing misapprehensions, it was made clear that prime ministers do not sign such agreements.

Officials said they would wait for the agreement to go through before modalities of how and when the actual signing takes place is worked out. It was also made clear that the Indian prime minister was going to the White House because of a 'relationship between India and the US, which has been transformed in the last three years'.

Senior officials were quick to side-step any questions on the internal wrangling within the US Congress over the passing of the 123 Agreement. They said India was only concerned with the final outcome, as that was the legally binding document.

The prime minister comes to the US with a high-powered Indian delegation, which is interestingly dominated by officials, including those who have closely worked with him in the last three years over the nuclear deal.

Accompanying him are Deputy Chairman Planning Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon and Special Envoy Shyam Saram. National Security Advisor M K Narayanan will be joining the prime minister directly in New York.

Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram is also expected to attend some meetings with the prime minister while there.

During his visit to the United Nations, Dr Singh will meet Republican presidential candidate John McCain [Images] as well as 'converse' with Barrack Obama if not actually meet him, as India looks to maintain a bipartisan approach towards the republicans and the democrats.

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