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Bush Meets with India's PM, Announces Policy Change


President Bush has opened the door to U.S. help for India's nuclear power industry. It is yet another sign of a transformation in U.S.-Indian relations.

The announcement came just hours after President Bush met at the White House with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

It was a visit steeped in ceremony, a visible demonstration of the desire of both countries to build on an increasingly important relationship.

Following their talks, President Bush and Prime Minister Singh went before reporters and spoke about prospects for enhanced cooperation in security, economic and scientific matters. Mr. Bush noted their joint efforts to fight terrorism and build a strategic partnership.

"Completing this partnership will help us further enhance our cooperation in the areas of civil nuclear, civil space and high technology commerce," Mr. Bush says.

Prime Minister Singh came to Washington, in part, to ask for American technology to help India build up its civilian nuclear energy program. Such transfers are currently barred under U.S. law because India is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Standing in the White House East Room with Mr. Bush, Mr. Singh indicated a change in U.S. policy might be imminent.

Manmohan Singh

"Both of us recognize that civilian nuclear energy has a greater role in meeting global energy demands. We in India have an ambitious and attainable national roadmap in this regard," Mr. Singh says.

The details came in a joint statement issued shortly before a banquet honoring the Indian leader. In that statement, President Bush vowed to cooperate fully with India to develop its civilian nuclear power program. He said he would ask Congress to change U.S. law, and would urge other countries to modify international rules to allow nuclear trade with India.

In return, the Indian government promised to adhere to global agreements aimed at curbing arms proliferation, and would work with the International Atomic Energy Agency to put safeguards in place.

It is a dramatic shift from the situation in 1998, when India conducted a nuclear weapons test and relations with the United States hit a new low. President Bush said recent years have brought a transformation in U.S. India ties, adding relations have never been stronger.

"We are working together to make our nations more secure, deliver a better life for our citizens and advance the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world," Mr. Bush says.

White House officials say this may have been the most important visit this year by a foreign leader. They speak of a new global partnership, indicating the Bush administration is well aware of the impact that India, the world's largest democracy with a rapidly expanding economy, can have on the international stage.

They stop short, however, of endorsing India's quest for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. They say while India has a right to apply for a seat, any expansion of the Council must wait until the United Nations fully implements necessary reforms.

But during his news conference with President Bush the Indian leader made clear he is not about to give up the fight.

"India has a compelling case for permanent membership of the Security Council. We are convinced that India can significantly contribute to U.N. decision-making and capabilities," Mr. Singh says.

Prime Minister Singh concluded his remarks by inviting President Bush to visit India. Mr. Bush has spoken in the past of an interest in making the journey, but no timeframe has been announced.

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