Washington, Feb. 28: With or without the nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush will agree on a rich harvest of initiatives when they meet in New Delhi on March 2.
Shielded by the high-profile nuclear negotiations, Indian and American officials are engaged in a word-by-word struggle to verbalise a significantly new formulation by the Bush administration on India’s case for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
The Indians want Bush to endorse New Delhi’s claim for a permanent place. Bush is said to be in favour of the idea, especially if a nuclear agreement fails to materialise. Such an endorsement will raise the profile of his visit and make Bush truly popular in India.
But officials in the US state department are fiercely resisting any such concession to India, sources said.
In the end, like the nuclear deal, a decision on the matter may be left to Singh and Bush.
Officials engaged in the negotiations said the exact formulation on the issue is as intractable as the nuclear deal, though it has been obscured in public discussions because of the high visibility of the dispute over separation of India’s nuclear facilities.
Bush will announce the opening of a US consulate-general in Hyderabad when he visits the city on March 3.
India allows foreign countries to open diplomatic posts only in New Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai and Mumbai.
About three years ago, in a precedent, South Block allowed Canada to open a consulate in Chandigarh during the visit of then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. That encouraged the Americans to seek a new diplomatic post in south India and Hyderabad was chosen.
Significantly enhancing the recent Indo-US cooperation on ensuring the safety of Asian sea lanes and navigation, Singh and Bush are likely to announce a Maritime Cooperation Framework to prevent piracy and other crimes in international waters, carry out joint search and rescue operations, combat marine pollution, respond to natural disasters and deal with other threats through mutual logistics support.
Last-minute negotiations on the framework are still under way because it involves several agencies in India.