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PM to have crucial meetings with Bush, Musharraf

By V S Chandrasekar in New York
September 13, 2005 10:10 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in New York on Tuesday for a hectic four-day visit during which he will meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and United States President George W Bush, besides his planned parleys with a number of world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader Hu Jintao, and participate in the United Nations General Assembly.

Hours after his arrival from an important bilateral visit to Paris, Dr Singh is likely to meet President Bush, which comes less than two months after their meeting in Washington when they signed a historic deal under which US offered to resume nuclear fuel supplies to Indian reactors.

The two leaders are likely to review progress on the agreement between the two countries under which both sides are expected to take follow up steps in implementing the deal.

The current concerns of some Democratic Congressmen and officials on statements made by External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh on Iran's nuclear programmes may also come up for discussion. Dr Singh has, however, downplayed such concerns.

Bush is also hosting a reception at night for world leaders here to attend the 60th Session of the UNGA, which would begin with the High Level Plenary Meeting of the heads of state and government from September 14 to 16.

On Wednesday, the prime minister is scheduled to have an important meeting with President Musharraf, whom he has invited over for dinner at Hotel New York Palace where he will be staying.

The Dr Singh-Musharraf meeting is likely to review the ongoing peace process between the two countries, especially against the backdrop of clamour for more Confidence Building Measures, particularly in trade and other areas.

The two leaders had met in April in Delhi on the sidelines of an Indo-Pak cricket match close on the heels of the flagging off of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service.

Dr Singh had recently met a Hurriyat delegation in Delhi and offered to consider reduction of the level of troops inside Jammu and Kashmir if violence and infiltration from across the border stopped. A Hurriyat team led by Mirwaiz Omar is also scheduled to meet Musharraf after the prime minister leaves for home.

The recent move to withdraw the Border Security Force from security duties inside the troubled state has been viewed with significance, though official sources point out that de-induction of the BSF had been on the cards for sometime as it was a force mainly for duties along the country's borders.

The prime minister is scheduled to address the United Nations on Thursday. The UN plenary this year will focus on the implementation of the Millenium Development Goals as also implementation of the outcomes of other relevant major UN conferences and summits.

It is expected to come out with an Outcome Document addressing UN reforms and combating the current and emerging global challenges and threats. The continuing fight against terrorism across the world, the issue of UN reform and the developments in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East would also be the focus of the 60th UNGA session.

The prime minister's address to the UNGA is expected to pitch a strong case for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council and its role in the international fight against terrorism.

New Delhi regards reforms of the UN as a continuous process encompassing elements such as revitalisation of the General Assembly, strengthening of the Economic and Social Council, reform of the secretariat machinery and the expansion of the Security Council and reform of its working methods.

India also places high priority on the conclusion of a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and looks forward to working together with other countries in resolving the outstanding issues in the negotiations on the draft.

On the sidelines of the UNGA, the prime minister is also participating in a function in which President Bush will launch the establishment of UN Democracy Fund for which India has announced a substantial financial contribution with the objective of assisting in globally strengthening the values of freedom, pluralism and rule of law.

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V S Chandrasekar in New York
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