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Manmohan Singh speaks to Bush
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 16
US President George W. Bush telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today from Singapore, hours before the Senate takes up Indo-US nuclear bill for discussion and voting.

Dr Manmohan Singh used this opportunity to tell Mr Bush that he hoped the Bill in its final form will accommodate India’s stated concerns. There was no word either from the Prime Minister’s Office or the US embassy here on what assurance, if any, was given by Mr Bush to Dr Manmohan Singh.

“There’s a very good chance that the Bill may be discussed and voted in the Senate today or in the next few days,” Mr David Kennedy, spokesman of the US embassy here told this correspondent.

The PMO issued a single-paragraph statement about the five-minute telephone call made by Mr Bush from Singapore. “The Prime Minister had a telephone conversation with President George W. Bush of the United States this afternoon. This was an opportunity for both leaders to exchange views on current matters. They discussed the legislation relating to the India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation understanding.

The Prime Minister expressed appreciation for the President’s commitment to the passage of the legislation and hoped that the Bill in its final form will accommodate India’s stated concerns. The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the state of bilateral relations between India and the US. The conversation lasted about five minutes.”

Mr Bush has already assured India that the parameters laid down in the joint statement of July 18, 2005, the Separation Plan and the March two statements in Parliament were the guiding factors in giving final shape to the legislation that the US Congress will adopt.

There is recognition here that Mr Bush has already delivered on his promise of giving the Bill a higher priority in the Senate so that it can be passed during the current lame duck session only.

New Delhi’s optimism on the fate of the nuclear bill stems from another reason also: the broadbased bipartisan support in the Congress for the Bill. After the recent elections, many Congressmen made important statements. Senator Reid said: “I think it's also important that we do something with the India nuclear agreement. This is important. India is the largest democracy in the world. We want to work with them. And this is important, that we move along that line.”

Senator Biden, top Democrat on the Senate's foreign affairs panel, said lawmakers were "ready to go with the India bill". He said he believed final passage was possible but it depended on the "mood" of defeated Republicans and whether they were "mature enough to say the voters have spoken." Biden said he believed the number of Democratic amendments was manageable.

He also said he thought the bill would pass "with a very large vote" in its favor, but it was up to the Senate's Republican leader, Bill Frist, on whether it would be considered.

Senator Lantos told The Associated Press that the deal is "very much in our national interest." He called it "a historic event. Whether we do it in December or February is really secondary, but I am convinced that we should do it."

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