Armed with NSG waiver, Manmohan readies for US, France tour

September 7th, 2008 - 7:29 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 7 (IANS) Armed with the India-specific waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is now ready to face the world. Later this month, he will go on a 10-day visit that will take him to the US and France and give him a chance to meet and thank US President George W. Bush, who made it all happen.The two leaders spoke over telephone Saturday shortly after the 45-member NSG announced its decision in Vienna to award the waiver to India, ending the country’s over three-decade long nuclear isolation and opening the doors for commerce with the nuclear cartel.

The prime minister will leave New Delhi Sep 22 for New York where he is scheduled to deliver a speech at the UN General Assembly Sep 26. On his way, he will make a “technical” halt and stay overnight at Frankfurt.

On Sep 25, he will attend a meeting on The Achievements of the Millennium Development Goals that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will chair. India and some select countries have been invited to attend.

Later in the day, he is likely to travel to Washington to meet Bush and discuss how the two countries can now work together to bring the India-US nuclear deal to fruition.

It is not clear whether he will have time to meet other US leaders, particularly the two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain.

Indian officials involved in the planning said loose ends were being tightened and the prime minister’s programme was yet to be finalised.

“But a meeting between the prime minister and President Bush is very much on the cards,” an official said.

Depending on the two leaders’ schedules, they may meet in New York.

On the sidelines of Manmohan Singh’s speech at the General Assembly, a number of bilateral meetings are being planned with key world leaders - many of them from countries that had played a key role in Vienna to get the consensus in the NSG for the Indian waiver.

Manmohan Singh will leave New York for Marseilles in France Sep 28 to attend the India-European Union Summit scheduled there for the next day.

A day later the prime minister will go to Paris for a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and senior members of his government.

One of the areas of discussions between the Indian and French officials will be nuclear cooperation.

France is a major supplier of nuclear reactors and technologies. For several years it has shown keenness for nuclear commerce with India but the absence of a waiver from the NSG had acted as a roadblock.

Now that India has the NSG waiver, France will be keen to start nuclear business with New Delhi.

However, with the US Congress yet to clear the nuclear deal allowing American companies to enter into nuclear trade with New Delhi, it is not clear if the Manmohan Singh government will formalise any arrangements with France.

The prime minister is scheduled to return to New Delhi Oct 2.

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