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White House Readies Welcome For Indian Prime Minister

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Terrorism and trade are likely to top the agenda when President Bush meets Monday with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Foreign visitors to the White House are common, but a state visit is a rarity accorded to few.

From the welcoming ceremony to the state banquet, President Bush is likely to highlight his desire for good relations with India.

Those relations chilled during the Cold War era, when India and the United States were often on opposite sides, and mistrust was the order of the day. They warmed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's, only to hit a new low in 1998, when India tested nuclear weapons.

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States provided an impetus for improving relations. And in a statement announcing the visit, the White House stressed it sees Prime Minister Singh's trip to Washington as a next step in expanding and deepening U.S.-India ties.

The two leaders are likely to have a full agenda for their talks, with the White House indicating they will focus on terrorism, trade, and energy.

Indian officials say the recent bombings in London have added a new urgency to their discussions of the war on terror. They say Prime Minister Singh will stress the need for a united front against the terrorist threat.

In an interview with The New York Times prior to his departure for Washington, Mr. Singh also made clear he intends to ask for access to U.S. technology for India's civilian nuclear-energy program.

Such a request could present problems for the Bush administration. India has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and U.S. law bars exports of nuclear technology to any country that is not a party to the pact.

Another thorny issue is India's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. But officials in both Washington and New Delhi have made clear their governments want to stress areas of agreement during this visit, and to focus on building a foundation for stronger ties in the future.

This will be the first state visit by an Indian prime minister to Washington in five years. In addition to the meetings and ceremonial events at the White House, Mr. Singh will address a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday.