NEW DELHI: Prime minister Manmohan Singh left for the US on Monday with hopes of raising a toast with “good friend” President George Bush to celebrate endorsement of the India-US nuclear agreement by the US Congress.
Nobody knows whether the 123 bilateral agreement will be signed while Singh is in Washington on September 25, but the Bush administration is doing its best to ensure that it does. The 123 agreement though negotiated has not been signed because India needed to finalise a safety agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and get a waiver from the Nuclear Supplier Group.
Now in the final lap, the agreement has to be put to vote again in the US Congress.
In a statement released just before he left New Delhi, Singh said he was looking forward to meeting President Bush and “….to my discussions with him on the entire range of issues on our bilateral agenda with the United States, including our civil nuclear initiative”.
It was only fair that the two leaders who worked tirelessly for the nuclear deal should be together to celebrate the final lap. Singh will also meet US business leaders and Indian-Americans who played a pivotal role in pushing the deal. India’s engagement with the US, Singh said, was to “our mutual benefit”.
On his way back, the PM will stop over in France for the Indo-EU meet in Marseilles and then go to Paris where he and president Sarkozy are expected to sign a nuclear agreement. The deal was agreed upon during Sarkozy’s Delhi visit at the Republic Day celebrations in January.
While in the US, Singh will also address the UN General Assembly and meet other leaders including Pakistan’s new president Asif Zardari, China’s PM Wen Jiabao, British PM Gordon Brown and heads of Italy and Namibia. He will also push for UN reforms, especially expansion of the Security Council.