With India in global eye, Manmohan goes to US MondaySeptember 21st, 2008 - 4:37 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday leaves on a 10-day visit to the US and France - perhaps the longest and most significant overseas trip of his tenure - that could seal New Delhi’s pathbreaking nuclear agreement with Washington and another atomic pact with Paris.Although he is going to the United Nations after a gap of three years, all eyes will be on his meeting with US President George W. Bush Sep 25.
When they meet at the White House in Washington, the two principal architects of the India-US nuclear deal are likely to sign the enabling 123 civil nuclear agreement, marking a new chapter in bilateral ties between the world’s largest and most powerful democracies and paving the way for atomic pacts with other countries like France and Russia.
In many ways, this could be the crowning moment in the life of the economist-turned-prime minister as he turns 76 the day he addresses the UN General Assembly Sep 26.
In 2005 September, when he addressed a galaxy of world leaders at the United Nations, the nuclear agreement was still a glint in his eyes and India’s increasing global weight was only tentatively felt.
Three years on, there is a dramatic shift in the global opinion of India with the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) club rewriting its rules to enable global nuclear trade with New Delhi.
It is with this sense of self-assurance and increased global recognition that Manmohan Singh will speak to world leaders Sep 26 as he raises burning global issues like terrorism, climate change and food security and makes a vigorous pitch for the long-delayed expansion of the UN Security Council.
Manmohan Singh will also expend a significant part of his speech to the UNGA to remind the world of India’s undiluted commitment to universal and verifiable disarmament, official sources said.
With a spate of terror attacks in India, including the latest one in Delhi, terrorism will also top the agenda when Manmohan Singh meets Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the UNGA. He will have a terse but pointed message for Zardari: only a permanent end to cross-border terror – Pakistan too is a victim of its backlash - can give the requisite push to the dialogue process.
The meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will be an occasion for some frank talk in the light of Beijing’s perceived negative role to block consensus in the 45-nation nuclear cartel. But the NSG issue will not be allowed to derail substantive engagement between the two countries in areas ranging from trade and culture to counter-terrorism and security issues, the sources said.
Wen will also be discussing the forthcoming ASEM conclave of Asian and European leaders for which Manmohan Singh may be going to Beijing next month.
Manmohan Singh will leave New York for Marseilles Sep 28 to attend the India-European Union Summit scheduled there for the next day. It will be followed by a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and senior members of his government Sep 30.
An India-France nuclear cooperation pact is ready for signing, but it is not yet clear whether it will be formally inked during the prime minister’s visit.
“We are working towards signing the agreement,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said here.