President Bush is urging India to take steps to complete a nuclear energy deal with the United States. The White House wants to have the last details of the agreement worked out before the president's trip to India and Pakistan next week.
President Bush makes clear he has a full agenda for his first trip to the Indian subcontinent. And he leaves no doubt he wants the nuclear agreement to be the showpiece of his visit to New Delhi. "India and the United States took a bold step forward last summer when we agreed to a civil nuclear initiative that will provide India with access to civilian nuclear technology and bring its civilian programs under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.
But negotiations to flesh out this agreement in principle have proven slow and difficult. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns is in India for last-minute talks. And President Bush is making a direct appeal to New Delhi for movement in one key area. "I will continue to encourage India to produce a credible, transparent and defensible plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs," he said.
That separation is one of the key elements of the deal under which the United States would provide nuclear energy technology in exchange for concrete steps by India to bring its civilian nuclear program into what the president called the international mainstream.
In a speech to the Asia Society, a private group that promotes greater understanding between the United States and Asia, the president stressed growing U.S. ties with India in areas ranging from trade to promoting democracy. He said relations have never been better.
President Bush also spoke at length about the evolution of America's relationship with Pakistan. He praised Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as a man who took a great personal risk by siding with the United States in the war on terrorism.
He said while Pakistan has a way to go on the path to democracy, it has a free press, numerous political parties and elections scheduled for next year. "The Pakistanis are taking this step toward democracy at a difficult time in their history. There are determined enemies of freedom attacking from within. We understand the struggles and we understand the pressure and the United States will walk with them on their path to freedom," he said.
The president went on to note he is encouraged by the progress being made in easing longtime tensions between India and Pakistan. He made specific mention of their efforts to resolve the dispute over Kashmir. "I will encourage them to address this important issue. America supports a resolution in Kashmir that is acceptable to both sides," he said.
President Bush said for far too long Kashmir has been a source of violence and distrust between India and Pakistan. He said these two countries now have an historic opportunity to work toward lasting peace.