M A I N   N E W S

No agreements to be signed during Bush visit
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
As the US President George W. Bush begins his maiden passage to India tomorrow evening, no agreements will be signed between the two sides — not because there aren’t any but because that is Mr Bush’s personal style.

The Tribune understands that there will be major announcements, including a declaration of intent on the nuclear deal. The list of outcomes will pertain to greater Indo-US cooperation in a number of areas like Navy-to-Navy cooperation, energy, space, science and technology, combating pandemics like HIV-AIDS and avian flu, nano-technology, bio-technology, information technology and agriculture. The intensified Indo-US cooperation in agriculture sector is aimed at ushering in the second Green Revolution in India.

The two countries are still making last-minute frantic efforts to sew up the nuclear deal to make it a perfect icing on the cake of Mr Bush’s India visit (March 1-4). The Indian side is busy preparing a separation Plan vis a vis its civil and military nuclear facilities. The idea is the separation plan will be put up before the American side during Mr Bush’s visit and in case the two sides finally hit a common ground, the two principals (Mr Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) will announce the breakthrough.

In that event, Mr Bush may also be expected to announce that he will be moving the Congress for making necessary legislation for lifting restrictions on supplying nuclear-related and equipment to India.

But as of today, the nuclear deal is still elusive. Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran went on record this evening to say: “Considerable progress has been made by the two sides. We still have some distance to go. This is not to leave unfinished business which can lead to problems later. We want to make sure there is clarity and no ambiguities. If necessary, we are going to continue negotiations beyond the visit.”

Mr Saran said the nuclear deal was “not an episodic initiative”. Rather, it was a process of long-term significance. “There is keen interest on both sides to have the (nuclear) deal as early as possible. There are benefits for both sides.”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who will be accompanying Mr Bush on his India visit, spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the telephone last evening and said the two countries needed to work hard to implement the nuclear deal as they were “very close” to it. Ms Rice spoke to the Prime Minister soon after his statement in Parliament on the nuclear deal.

In view of the high-profile visit, the security agencies have declared virtually the whole of New Delhi a no-fly zone and thrown a massive zero-tolerance security blanket all over the city.

Both sides are keeping Mr Bush’s itinerary a closely-guarded secret for security reasons. However, the itinerary is given below:

March 1

1950 hours: Arrival at IGI airport, New Delhi

2005: Departure for hotel Maurya Sheraton

2025: Arrive in hotel. Dinner in Presidential Suite.

March 2

0845 hours: Arrival in Rashtrapati Bhavan

0920: Visit Rajghat.

1000: Arrive at Hyderabad House for delegation-level talks which begin at 1036 hrs.

1125: Address Indo-US CEO Forum

1230: Joint media availability along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

1310: Arrive at hotel Taj Palace for lunch to be hosted by the Prime Minister.

1425: Goes to the US Embassy

1515: Comes back to hotel Maurya Sheraton

1545: Private meeting.

1620: Call by Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani

1640: Call by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi

1915: Goes to Rashtrapati Bhavan for a call on President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and attend a banquet hosted by Dr Kalam.

March 3

Leaves for Hyderabad in the morning and returns to New Delhi at 1615 hrs.

1845 hours: Address from Purana Qila

1940: Leaves for hotel. Dinner in suite.

March 4

0830 hours: Departure for airport.

0900: Departure for Islamabad.

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