Manmohan Singh, Obama to meet Sunday

Manmohan Singh, Obama to meet Sunday

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet President Barack Obama here Sunday ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit to discuss the path forward on their landmark civil nuclear deal and other bilateral and regional issues.

The Sunday afternoon meeting with Manmohan Singh, who has advanced his trip by a day for the important “bilateral engagement”, at the Blair House, the presidential guest house across the street from White House, will be first of a series of meetings that Obama will have with world leaders from 47 nations.

“Obviously the President developed a close working relationship with Prime Minister Singh, who visited the United

States for a State Dinner and working visit last year,” Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, told reporters Friday.

“And we expect, again, to have a dialogue with the Indians, a continuing dialogue on a range of issues that we’re working with them together on.”

An announcement on the next steps for implementing the nuclear deal may be expected with a major hurdle cleared with India and US reaching agreement on reprocessing of spent US nuclear fuel. The two sides had failed to make such an announcement during Manmohan Singh’s November state visit.

India’s relationship with Pakistan, cross border terrorism and India’s role in Afghanistan would inevitably figure in his talks with Obama, who later in the day is set to have a separate bilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

“The United States and Pakistan have a deepening partnership on a range of issues, and the President looks forward to this opportunity to continue strengthening that partnership during discussions with Prime Minister Gilani,” Rhodes said.

However, a bilateral meeting between Manmohan Singh and Gilani appears highly unlikely.

Meanwhile, sherpas for the Nuclear Security Summit concluded their final meeting Friday to finalise arrangements and documents for the summit with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao leading the Indian side and Gary Samore, White House Coordinator for WMD Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, chairing.

The Summit, Samore said, “is focused on a very specific issue of securing nuclear materials and cooperating to prevent nuclear smuggling in order to reduce as much as possible the threat that terrorist groups or criminal gangs get their hands on nuclear materials that can be used for nuclear weapons.”

After the welcoming ceremony Monday, Obama will host “a very important kickoff working dinner”, as Samore put it. “The focus of this opening dinner is on the threat and the magnitude of the threat,” he said calling it a “a really critical component of the summit.”

The dinner is going to set the stage for the discussions Tuesday on measures that can be taken in order to reduce the risk and to defeat the threat, he said.

At the summit, Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao will be among a few leaders who would outline their respective national plans to ensure safety of nuclear materials to set the ball rolling in the first plenary.

As Deputy US National Security Adviser Michael Froman, said during a recent US-India Business Council meeting: “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s attendance will be key to the success of the summit.”

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