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Bush, Singh Discuss 'Transformation' of US-India Relations


President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh have agreed to enhance cooperation in security, economic and energy matters. After talks at the White House, both men spoke of a "transformation" in relations between the U.S. and India.

The two leaders say relations between their countries - once marked by decades of distrust - are now on the right path. Speaking to reporters after their meeting, President Bush and Prime Minister Singh put the focus on the positive.

Mr. Bush spoke of 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," he said.

Prime Minister Singh came to Washington, in part, to ask for American technology to help India build up its civilian nuclear energy program. His request has created a dilemma for the Bush administration. India is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.S. law forbids the transfer of nuclear technology to any country that is not a party to the pact.

Administration officials indicated they would step up discussions on the matter. They pointed to a joint written statement from the two leaders, which indicated those discussions would include peaceful applications of fusion science and related research topics.

Prime Minister Singh said he was satisfied with the American response, noting President Bush understands the link between energy resources and economic growth.

"Both of us recognize that civilian nuclear energy has a greater role in meeting global energy demands," he said. "We in India have an ambitious and attainable national road map in this regard. We look forward to President Bush's strong leadership on these important issues."

The Indian leader also said he raised the issue of a permanent seat for his country on the United Nations Security Council. President Bush did not talk about the Indian bid during their public appearances. But U.S. officials said that while India has a right to apply for a council seat, Washington prefers a limited expansion of the body and believes no new members should be added until the United Nations implements reforms.

These officials made clear the two leaders had a broad agenda for their talks, which also included India's relationship with Pakistan, events in Nepal, Burma and Bangladesh, and developments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although Prime Minister Singh is a head of government, and not a head of state, he was welcomed with all the ceremony of a state visit. The Bush administration called it one of the most important White House visits of the year. President Bush said relations between the United States and India 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," he said.

Tensions between the two countries grew during the cold war era, when they were often on opposite sides on major issues. They warmed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, only to hit a new low in 1998, when India tested nuclear weapons.

The war on terrorism and a series of economic reforms in India are among the factors that have led to an improvement in ties in recent years. Prime Minister Singh said he is convinced after his meeting with President Bush that relations are on the right track.

"These discussions have been, indeed, very productive and focused on the future direction of a transformation in our multifaceted relations," he said.

Mr. Singh said he has invited President Bush to visit India. The president has spoken in the past of his interest in making the journey, but no timeframe has been announced.