Bush meets Manmohan, says n-deal ‘important for both’ (Overall Lead)

July 9th, 2008 - 11:50 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Tarun Basu
Toyako, July 9 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday discussed the landmark nuclear deal with US President George W. Bush at this hot springs resort in the mountainous Japanese island of Hokkaido, with the American leader strongly endorsing it as “important” for both countries. The two leaders met for about 45 minutes at Hotel Windsor Toya, overlooking the scenic Lake Toya before going into a breakfast meeting involving G8 leaders and other eight leaders of the Outreach nations.

Making brief comments to the media after the meeting, both leaders said they discussed the nuclear deal that has caused a rupture in Manmohan Singh’s coalition government, with his Communist allies announcing Tuesday that they would withdraw parliamentary support over it.

Bush, who has been pushing the nuclear deal as one of the foreign policy achievements of his tenure, said: “We talked about the nuclear deal and how important it is for our respective countries.”

Manmohan Singh was reserved in his comments on the deal, well aware how his every word would be dissected and analysed back home, only saying that the two discussed “progress in nuclear cooperation, defence cooperation and space cooperation”.

Manmohan Singh said ties with the US were never so good as now and said besides the nuclear deal, the two discussed climate change, educational exchanges, the Doha Round and free trade issues among a range of bilateral and international subjects.

“We don’t want protectionist sentiments to come up like a wall,” Bush said as he pushed for greater access for American goods and services into India.

Manmohan Singh, who looked happy with the talks, said: “It is the intention of my government - as also I believe of the Indian people, particularly the thinking sections - that in an increasingly interdependent world we live in, whether it is the question of climate change or the question of the global economy, India and the United States must stand tall and work shoulder to shoulder….”

Manmohan Singh, who winds up a three-day visit here, drove two hours through mist-laden mountains and a lush green country landscape at 5 a.m. from Sapporo, where he is staying, to meet the American leader who is here to attend the annual G8 summit of the world’s industrialised nations.

The Indian government is expected to go through several mandatory procedures with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) before the deal, in the making for three years, goes to Washington for a presidential determination and Congressional endorsement of the 123 bilateral enabling agreement.

Indian sources, with access to the senior officials at the talks, said Bush gave his assurance that his administration would try and speed up the legal and legislative processes, including pushing it through the IAEA and NSG forums, so that the deal gets finalised well before the end of the year and before he lays down office in January 2009.

National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Climate Change Shyam Saran accompanied the prime minister at the talks.

Manmohan Singh, who came here to attend the Outreach meetings of the G8 summit as the representative of one of the five invited emerging economies that also include China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, returns to New Delhi Wednesday night to confront the political crisis facing his government.

He said here Tuesday that the withdrawal by the Left would not affect the stability of his government and he was ready to face parliament.

Three other nations - Australia, South Korea and Indonesia - were also special invitees at the Outreach meetings.

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