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President Bush En-Route to India for Historic Visit


President Bush is on his way to the Indian capital New Delhi for his first visit, during which both governments hope to finalize an unprecedented deal on sharing civilian nuclear technology.

Indian officials say discussions on what could be a landmark nuclear deal remain on-going, hours ahead of President Bush's arrival. The deal would allow India access to U.S. civilian nuclear technology. In return, India must separate its military and civilian nuclear facilities, and allow some international inspections.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week says the deal could strengthen rather than compromise India's national security.

"The separation plan that is being outlined is not only consistent with the imperatives of national security, it also protects our vital research and development interests," said Singh.

India needs nuclear technology to meet the growing demands on its energy sector.

Both Indian and U.S. lawmakers must approve any deal that is reached.

There is some concern that India has never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - which would bind it to observe international safeguards. But in a speech last month previewing his trip to India, President Bush said relations have never been better with India and now is the time to pursue an ambitious agenda in energy, trade and anti-terrorism.

Meanwhile, some 50,000 predominantly Muslim protesters gathered in the capital Wednesday for the first of what is expected to be several demonstrations against Mr. Bush and his policies in Iraq. Protest organizer Abdul Hameed Nomani says while officials want to welcome the U.S. president, many in the public do not like him because they blame him for killing innocent women and children in conflicts.

Security is high across the capital, and in the southern city of Hyderabad, where Mr. Bush is also expected to visit.

In addition to the nuclear deal, officials are also expected to discuss joint initiatives in the fields of agriculture, H.I.V. and AIDS research, technology and education.

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