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HE?S A FRIEND | Says poll; N-talks continue

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh on Wednesday dispensed with protocol ? for the second time in his tenure ? and, accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, went to the airport to receive US President George W. Bush and his wife Laura. This is the US first couple's first visit to India.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 13:04 IST

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh on Wednesday dispensed with protocol — for the second time in his tenure — and, accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, went to the airport to receive US President George W. Bush and his wife Laura. This is the US first couple's first visit to India.

The personal rapport between the two was evident from their body language and the way they chatted —like friends. And it is not just Manmohan Singh who believes Bush is a friend (see Hindustan Times-C fore survey).

The ties between the countries will be further strengthened if the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, which has become the centrepiece of the US president’s visit, is sealed. Sources said there were indications that negotiations over the past few days had succeeded in sealing a deal.

The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs had an unscheduled meeting before Bush’s arrival, suggesting that the separation plan for the reactors had been approved.

Sources said negotiations would carry on till late on Wednesday to finalise an agreement on civilian nuclear energy cooperation, leaving no room for “ambiguities” in the future.

Reports say even before Bush touched down in Delhi, US negotiators accompanying him were on the phone with their Indian counterparts from the air, trying to iron out the remaining differences. The national security advisers of both countries also met for talks after Air Force One landed.

“Our people are talking to Indians today on the plane about trying to come to a civilian power agreement,” Bush said at a press conference in Kabul, where he made a brief halt before flying to Delhi. “It’s in the interest of the US and in the interest of the countries around the world that India develops a nuclear power industry.”

Bush will hold formal talks with the PM and other leaders on Thursday. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also accompanying the US president.

First Published: Mar 02, 2006 13:04 IST