The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left limit for Singh US trip

Washington, July 14: The Left has won out. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sits beside US President George W. Bush in the East Room of the White House on Monday, CPM supremo Prakash Karat’s shadow will loom large over his visage.

As of now, India and the US will sign only one agreement during Singh’s three-day visit to Washington next week. The sole agreement will enhance co-operation between the two countries in science and technology.

But India and the US will announce a string of “decisions” and “initiatives” on subjects as diverse as agriculture and co-operation in space to nuclear energy and HIV/AIDS.

These will be reflected in a joint statement at the end of Singh’s visit.

Negotiators preparing for the visit have concluded that “decisions” and “initiatives”, instead of formal agreements, will make it easier for both sides to implement them.

The virulence of the Left’s opposition to a “framework” for bilateral defence relations, signed during defence minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit here last month has unsettled the negotiators, who are keen to avoid any impression of discord on either side when Singh is in the US or soon after his return home.

On the US side, too, there is determined opposition within the American bureaucracy to giving India even an inch on nuclear, space and high-technology issues although Bush and several members of his cabinet favour increased co-operation with New Delhi.

Ngeotiators on both sides feel that agreements will strengthen opposition to them both in India and the US: it may be easier to explain away the lower profile of “decisions” and “initiatives”.

Besides, several decisions to be taken jointly by the Prime Minister and the US President will contravene the spirit, if not the letter, of America’s myriad non-proliferation laws.

Bush may not be in a position to neutralise the non-proliferation lobby here if he goes in for agreements with Singh at this stage.

A final decision on this and other issues will be taken on Friday when foreign secretary Shyam Saran gives finishing touches to arrangements for Singh’s visit in talks with state department officials here.

Saran, accompanied by S. Jaishankar, South Block’s point man for the US, is arriving here later today on instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Saran’s early arrival in Washington follows Singh’s decision to overrule external affairs minister K. Natwar Singh, who wanted to reach the US today to give his imprimatur on final arrangements for the prime ministerial trip.

Indian negotiators digging into the archives of their embassy here have discovered that India and the US have never signed a single agreement during any previous prime ministerial visit to Washington.

The absence of agreements, barring one, next week will be explained away by officials, if necessary, by citing this precedent in Indo-US summits over half a century.

By far, the most important initiative during the visit will be on space: an Indo-US working group on space co-operation has been working on details of joint fabrication and launch of satellites in a step that will open up vistas, which may eventually lead to sending Indians into outer space or the moon.

India is keen on expanding its robust, but restricted, pharmaceuticals sector through joint manufacture of drugs and access to the lucrative American market.

On nuclear energy, intense negotiations are still under way on how far Bush can go to help India without getting into the cross-hairs of America’s formidable non-proliferation laws.

Negotiators on both sides last night finalised the terms of reference on agriculture co-operation between the two countries, which will recreate the vision of a second Green Revolution reminiscent of an Indo-US initiative 40 years ago with the help of Norman Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace laureate and pioneer in agricultural research.

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