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India-US Leaders Meet on Summit Sidelines - 2004-09-22

The leaders of India and the United States have met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly debate, proclaiming that their countries' relationship has never been better. The two leaders agreed to solidify the bilateral partnership.

President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held informal talks over breakfast, shortly before Mr. Bush addressed the opening session of the General Assembly debate. Prime Minister Singh will deliver his maiden address to the Assembly Thursday.

After their meeting, the two men issued a joint communiqué expressing satisfaction that U.S.-India relations have never been as close as they are now. The communiqué welcomed the recent U.S. decision to ease sanctions imposed on India's space industry after the country conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

During a brief encounter with reporters Tuesday, the president and the prime minister traded jokes and compliments. The Indian leader said he was pleased that under President Bush, U.S.-India relations have grown. He added "I do believe that the best is yet to come."

Prime Minister Singh later held a joint meeting with the leaders of Brazil and Japan, as well as Germany's foreign minister, to discuss efforts to win permanent membership on an expanded U.N. Security Council.

Afterward, the four countries issued a statement in which all agreed to endorse each other's Security Council candidacies.

The four hope to be included, possibly along with an African country, if and when new permanent members are added to the Council. The issue is among those being studied by a high-level panel that is due to issue recommendations at the end of the year.

Indian diplomats say Mr. Singh's speech is likely to stress the need for greater efforts to fight terrorism.