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Mukherjee may meet Bush on Monday

The civil nuclear deal will dominate the discussions between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US President George W Bush.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2008 13:38 IST

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to meet President George W Bush on Monday as part of his maiden bilateral visit to the US during which the civil nuclear deal is expected to dominate the parleys.

Mukherjee, who will be arriving in Washington on Sunday afternoon from New York for the two-day visit, is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday at 8:45 am (6:15 pm IST).

Rice and Mukherjee are expected to hold a wide-ranging discussion on several aspects of the broadening and deepening Indo-US ties, which will include the civil nuclear initiative.

After the meeting at the State Department, the minister is scheduled to talk at a closed-door session with senior analysts and think tank specialists at the Carnegie Endowment, an event that is closed to the media.

The high-point of Mukherjee's trip to Washington is his visit to the White House tomorrow afternoon where he will be having a session with US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Mukherjee is also expected to meet Bush there.

The Indian Minister would leave for New York on Tuesday on his way to India.

Senior officials have been stressing that in Mukherjee's meetings, including at the White House, a range of issues on bilateral, regional and global issues will be discussed, but there is also the feeling that the civilian nuclear initiative will merit a high degree of importance.

The feeling is that the Bush administration would want to know from Mukherjee his thinking and that of the government of India on this critical issue given his important role on the nuclear initiative; and Mukherjee will get to know first hand from the administration the important timelines left to be resolved if the nuclear deal is to get through this session of US Congress.

Top lawmakers from the US have made it known to India of the absolute timelines left for the second session of the 110th Congress to pass the nuclear deal.

Given the crowded Congressional agenda in an election year lawmakers have expressed the opinion that the deal will have to come to Capitol Hill by the end of May, if passage is to be possible by the end of July prior to Congress breaking away for the summer recess.

Some analysts have privately expressed the view that Congress may still have time in a lame duck session after the November 4 Presidential elections to wrap up the civilian nuclear deal. But the warning is also that there may not be a lame duck session in the aftermath of the elections should Democrats come out on top and wanting to start the slate afresh on many unfinished businesses, including the civilian nuclear deal.