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Updated: November 22, 2009 15:18 IST

Boost to intelligence sharing, countering terror likely during Manmohan’s U.S. visit

Malini Parthasarathy
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives for the Winter Session of the Parliament. He is on his first State visit to the Obama administration. File Photo: V.V. Krishnan
The Hindu
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives for the Winter Session of the Parliament. He is on his first State visit to the Obama administration. File Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Agreements likely on arrangements relating to the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. Efforts are on to finalise an agreement on the reprocessing of spent fuel which is to be announced during his visit.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his entourage arrive later today in Washington for meetings with U.S President Barack Obama and others in his administration, expecting the visit to culminate in intensified cooperation with the United States in matters such as intelligence sharing and American assistance in countering terrorist attacks in India. India and the U.S. are also likely to announce here an agreement on arrangements relating to the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, an issue that had impeded the completion of the landmark 2005 agreement on nuclear cooperation.

Dr. Singh is clearly looking to ensure that the paradigm shift of sorts achieved in his last visit to the U.S., which brought forth the unprecedented nuclear deal, is sustained and consolidated in his meetings with the Obama administration. Efforts are on to finalise an agreement on the reprocessing of spent fuel which is to be announced during the Singh visit. The agreement on the arrangements and procedures for reprocessing is to be part of the joint statement emerging from the Obama-Singh talks. This is evidently intended as a token of the new administration’s continuing commitment to nuclear cooperation with India.

The sticking points such as the American insistence on a scrutiny of the security of the reprocessing facilities, the number of these reprocessing facilities in relation to the nuclear power plants and the issue of compensation, are being addressed in last-minute talks between Indian and American officials. These wrinkles are expected to be ironed out before Dr. Singh meets Mr. Obama on Tuesday morning. After a private meeting between the two, they will be joined by their respective delegations for more talks. A joint statement will emerge from these talks, indicating the contours of the relationship in the new context.

Another area of cooperation being highlighted as evidence of the Obama administration’s appreciation of the challenge that India faces from terrorist attacks is intelligence sharing, particularly in the context of tracking the perpetrators of the 26/11 terror attacks. The U.S. is said to have provided a new lead to Indian investigators, unearthing a link between terror suspect David Headley and another person linked to the Mumbai attacks. Indicating the growing importance attached to India-U.S. intelligence sharing on terrorism in the subcontinent was the visit of Leon Panetta, Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, on Saturday in which he shared with Indian officials his impressions of the situation in Pakistan.

The U.S. President, who is to unveil his strategy on Afghanistan shortly, has indicated that he wants to hear Dr. Singh’s view of the situation in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister and his delegation will also seek to impress upon the Obama administration the imperative of acknowledging India’s stakes in any strategy vis-À-vis Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Mr. Obama will brief Dr. Singh on his discussions in China, the Prime Minister will not express perturbation over the references to South Asia in the U.S.-China joint statement as China has conveyed categorically to India that it has not changed its position that India and Pakistan must sort out their differences only in bilateral talks.

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