Washington, Feb. 22: President George W. Bush said today his visit to India beginning on March 1 will revolve around five issues, which he plans to discuss with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In the first peek into the agenda for the summit, Bush said the five issues are: terrorism, cooperation in civilian nuclear energy, support for global democracy, health and environment as well as free and better bilateral trade.
Speaking at the Asia Society, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding, Bush was cautiously optimistic about the fate of the July 18, 2005, nuclear deal, which he announced with Singh at the White House.
“I will continue to encourage India to produce a credible, transparent and defensible plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes,” Bush said.
In the same breath, as if to lower expectations of a breakthrough in negotiations to sort out problems in the way of the deal before his arrival in India, Bush added: “Implementing this agreement will take time and it will take patience.”
Bush’s use of the terms “credible, transparent and defensible plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes” was not a sign of hope as his top negotiator on the deal, under-secretary of state Nicholas Burns, begins final negotiations in New Delhi with foreign secretary Shyam Saran on Thursday.
Critics of the deal have pointed out that these terms were not part of the July 18 joint statement and that their subsequent use by US negotiators amounted to “shifting the goal posts”.
Alluding to the problems in the negotiations, Bush revealed that entering into the nuclear deal and working out its details was “not an easy decision for India, nor is it an easy decision for the US”.
But he insisted that America wants to help in realising India’s ambitious goal of producing 25 per cent of its electricity needs from nuclear power plants by 2050.
Bush went beyond previously known details of intelligence cooperation, though these may not be sweet music to Left parties.
“To defeat the terrorists, our intelligence and law enforcement agencies are cooperating on a regular basis to make air travel more secure, increase the security of cyberspace, and prevent bio-terrorist attacks,” he said.
“Our two governments are sharing vital information on suspected terrorists and potential threats.”