Manmohan Singh arrives in Washington for meeting with Bush(Priority)

September 26th, 2008 - 12:47 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, Sept 25 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has arrived in Washington for his all important meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush later this evening, even as the passing of the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear deal in the U.S. Congress remains in suspense.

His arrival in the United States capital came even as senior Indian Government officials continued to arm twist their American counterparts on their reservations about the changes in the language of the text of the Senate Bill related to the US-India civil nuclear deal that has been through various stages of negotiations over the past 38 months.

Indian officials accompanying the Prime Minister and diplomats posted here are also reportedly quite vexed and upset by the move of Democrat Congressman Howard Berman, a known opponent of the 123 Agreement, introducing fresh clauses in the Bill that has been presented in the U.S. House of Representatives today, a day after the U.S. Senate passed the Bill by a 19 to 2 vote.

The Berman-related clauses in the bill say that the U.S. should prevent transfer of nuclear technology and material if India conducts a test in future. It also makes reference to support on Iran. It links passing an agreement to support on Iran.

However, the Indian American Republican Council has asked the Senate to reject the bill moved by Berman, which is not same as the Senate Bill.

It has been reported that Berman wants the U.S. Congress to vote on all future 123 Agreements. This move can be neutralized by a presidential statement overruling provisions in bill. US President George W Bush had earlier overruled Hyde Act provisions.

Sources said that Indian officials are negotiating on the contents of the presidential statement. They are also demanding that a joint committee oversee a reconciliation between the Bill introduced in the Senate and the Bill introduced in the House of Representatives.

The vote will take place hours before Manmohan Singh and George Bush meet.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, told ANI on Thursday that he is confident that the Bill related to the U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation will be passed by the U.S. Congress, but seemed to rule out the signing of an agreement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’’s meeting with President George W Bush or on its sidelines.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 19-2 in favor of the deal. The Senate Bill reportedly states that United States will prevent the transfer of nuclear material technology if India conducts a nuclear test. It also says that the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal will be subject to the provisions of the Hyde Act and other American laws.

India has maintained that changes in the language of the Senate Bill is an internal matter of the United States, and that it will be solely guided and bound by the 123 agreement. If passed, the Bill will end the over three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with India. The White House sees the deal as the cornerstone of a new strategic partnership with New Delhi.

The Congress, which is preoccupied with the Bush bail out package to overcome the domestic financial crisis, may approve the agreement before Dr Singh”’’s high powered working dinner with Bush today.

If passed by the U.S. Congress, the agreement will be signed formally by either the External Affairs Minister or by officials designated by the two sides.

Besides the nuke deal, issues like high-tech cooperation, agriculture, education and defence ties will figure prominently in Singh-Bush talks.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister met leaders of The Netherlands and Jamaica in New York.

Singh met his Netherlands counterpart, Jan Peter Balkenende and later followed it up with a meeting with Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

No details about the meetings were immediately available. It was, however, stated that Singh had brief discussions with both before leaving for Washington.
Some television reports also said that there is a possibility of the Prime Minister delaying his departure from the United States should a formal agreement materialise to the satisfaction of both sides. Official sources, however, were tightlipped about this development. (ANI)

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