Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet President George W Bush on September 13, just a few hours after his arrival in New York for the 60th plenary of the United Nations General Assembly, senior administration and diplomatic sources have confirmed to rediff.com.
The sources said the envisaged meeting would most likely take place at the Waldorf Astoria, where President Bush will be staying, but they refused to confirm the venue for security reasons. Dr Singh will be staying at the New York Palace Hotel during his four-day visit.
On September 14, both Bush and Dr Singh, along with United Nations Secretary Secretary General Kofi Annan, will co-host the high profile Democracy Initiative multilateral event at the UN that will herald the formal launch of the UN Democracy Fund set up in 2004, to which Washington and New Delhi were the first contributors.
According to the sources, the fact that Bush would be meeting the prime minister, just a few hours after his own (Bush's) arrival in New York, was testament "to the high regard and respect in which he holds the prime minister," and also because of his "unstinted commitment to the US-India relationship".
Earlier, even though the White House had sounded New Delhi about a possible bilateral meeting on the margins of the UNGA, India had not pushed for such a meeting because the two leaders had met less than two months ago in Washington.
After the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina to the US Gulf Coast, New Delhi had being as scrupulously sensitive as it could be -- this tragedy has consumed Bush and his administration -- with the president himself monitoring the recovery efforts almost hour by hour and scheduled to make his third trip to the affected areas on Sunday. It made even more sense not to seek a bilateral summit even though both leaders will be in New York at the same time.
But, the sources said the administration, once again, of its own volition had taken the initiative and offered up a bilateral, even though Bush would be having such a tight schedule in New York and would return to Washington immediately after the launch of the Democracy Initiative and delivering his speech to the UNGA.
"We didn't even suggest it,"one senior diplomatic source told rediff.com, "because we had just had a meeting and the president's time we know is all consuming with the Katrina tragedy and at times like this, we must show consideration, and also of course, since both the prime minister and President Bush had met in July."
"But the president is so warm and has shown so much commitment to the relationship with India," that the White House had informed Indian officials that Bush would be delighted to meet with the prime minister one-on-one. "Even with all that's going on, the Indo-US relationship is so much in his mind that he is doing it (having a bilateral with Dr Singh," the source added.
Meanwhile, the sources noted, the meeting between the prime minister and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf of September 14, would not be an elaborate dinner that Dr Singh would be hosting and was likely to be "very restricted, very tight" to just the senior officials of both sides. One source said it would even be a one-on-one like the last time both leaders met in 2004 on the sidelines of the UNGA and announced their commitment to the composite dialogue to iron out the differences between Delhi and Islamabad.