Manmohan calls Bush

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By PRANAY SHARMA in Delhi
  • Published 6.11.04
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New Delhi, Nov. 6: Brushing aside the Left?s objections to the growing ties between Delhi and Washington, Manmohan Singh rang up US President George W. Bush last night to congratulate him on his re-election.

The Prime Minister stressed his desire to work with Bush on ?a robust, bilateral agenda?, adding that he wanted to strengthen Indo-US cooperation in various fields.

Singh had written a congratulatory letter to Bush on Thursday, inviting him to visit India at an early date. The Prime Minister termed the proposed visit as a ?milestone? in bilateral relations.

Details of the telephone conversation are not known, but Singh had made it clear in his letter that his government attached a lot of importance to Washington.

The CPI, which was unaware of the Prime Minister?s letter, had issued a statement saying Bush?s re-election as President would not have ?any positive impact? on bilateral ties.

Yesterday, the CPM central committee issued a sharply-worded statement, naming Singh for the first time since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance assumed power last May, on what it regarded as an attempt to shift from the ?independent? foreign policy agreed upon in the common minimum programme.

But Singh?s telephone call and his advisers? decision to make this public indicate that the Prime Minister?s Office is not taking the Left criticism very seriously.

As part of intensifying the bilateral engagement, US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage arrives here on Wednesday to speak with Indian leaders and senior officials on bilateral and regional issues.

Foreign secretary Shyam Saran will visit Washington on November 17 and 18 for talks with senior US official Kenneth Juster to draw up an action plan for the Next Steps on Strategic Partnership II. The focus of the talks will be on the transfer of high technology, defence and nano-technology. Before this, an official team visits Washington to talk to the Americans on cyber-terrorism.

Saran?s visit to Washington will give him the chance to renew his contacts with key figures in the Bush administration.

Singh wrote to Bush about ?our shared vision and common values (that) provide an enduring base for our relations?. He added: ?India and the US together, and in partnership based on trust and mutual confidence, can make a positive difference to issues of global significance in this century.?

When Saran meets Bush?s new team, he will convey this message and the spirit of the UPA government.

The Singh government needs Left support to survive. From the time it wrested power from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, it was apparent that the Left would scrutinise some aspects of the new regime?s foreign policy. It was widely expected that the improving Indo-US ties would come in for criticism, given the Left?s traditional hostility to ?all things American?.