The 15-minute interaction between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush this morning at the Oval Office of the White House, and the 45-minute delegation-level discussions that followed, centered on four broad themes: global terrorism, economic cooperation, energy and regional issues.
Foreign secretary Shyam Saran, who was present at the delegation-level talks, said the outcome of the discussions, as reflected in the joint statement issued by the two leaders 'exceeded all our expectations.'
People have been talking of the transformation of Indo-US relations,' Saran said at a media briefing July 18 evening. 'This joint statement is the manifestation of that transformation.'
Complete coverage: Manmohan Singh in Washington
Terming it an 'exciting day' that had got off to a spectacular start, Saran said the interaction was characterized by the 'excellent' personal chemistry of the two leaders; a rapport forged from their first meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2004, a second meeting in Moscow on the sidelines of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of World War II, more recently at Gleneagles, Scotland, and now here.
Bush went the extra mile, Saran said, to clarify to Singh that the extra special welcome being accorded the Indian prime minister was no coincidence. He even joked of his dislike for formal banquets, and told Singh that despite his well publicized aversion for such functions, he was gladly donning a tuxedo this evening for the formal banquet because he wished to convey to the prime minister, and to the people of India, the very high importance the US placed on the relationship.
That the issue of global terrorism was front and center in the discussions was understandable, Saran said, in light of the recent incidents in Ayodhya, and in London. The two leaders recognize that terrorism is global, and hence must be fought on a global scale, with the two countries forming important arms of a global alliance.
Vis-à-vis the economy, Bush views India as an emerging economic superpower, and sought details on the growth track. Singh briefed Bush on the country's growth curve and pointed out to him how every denominator of growth was falling in place at the right time. Even the demographics, Singh pointed out, was beneficial the working population was steadily increasing; this in turn meant savings could grow to 33 per cent or more, and that meant a large sum available for investment, especially in infrastructure projects.
With reference to energy, the leaders understood that globally, resources were under strain. Further, said Saran, the leaders agreed that the ongoing expansion by India and China was likely to put further strain on the already stretched resources. It was thus necessary to find new sources of energy and significantly, said Saran, Bush agreed that nuclear power was a very important source of clean energy, and was totally supportive of India's efforts in this direction.
This thinking, Saran pointed out, finds concrete expression in the joint statement, which specifically provides for the 'development of stable and efficient energy markets in India,' the removal of 'certain organizations from the Department of Commerce's Entity List,' and the assurance of nuclear fuel to Tarapore and other establishments.
On regional issues, Saran said, the two leaders discussed the situation in West Asia and 'also closer to India's neighborhood,' and were of one mind on the need to promote political and economic stability in these areas.
Saran said an equally important component of the PM's first day in Washington, DC was his meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney. The two leaders, he said, discussed ways to fight the common challenge of terrorism; Singh also briefed Cheney about the enormous possibilities inherent in increased economic cooperation between the two countries.
'Without exaggeration,' Saran said, 'I would say the outcome of the meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was substantive, it was significant, and it exceeded even our own expectations.'