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Dr Singh meets Obama in Washington, DC

Source: PTI
Last updated on: April 12, 2010 00:45 IST
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Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Sunday night Indian time met United States President Barack Obama and is understood to have discussed nuclear security, India's concerns over American military aid to Pakistan and the volatile situation in Afghanistan.

The 48-year-old Obama walked down across the White House to meet 77-year-old Dr Singh at the Blair House, the US president's official guest house, their second meeting in nearly five months.

Dr Singh and Obama had last met at the White House on November 24, 2009, during the former's state visit.

The controversial Civil Nuclear Liability Bill, which is caught in a political quagmire in India with opposition parties strongly objecting to certain aspects of the proposed legislation, is also believed to have figured during the talks.

Officials said Dr Singh will use the occasion to inform Obama that the nuclear liability bill is going through democratic processes in India and he hopes it to be passed by Parliament at the earliest.

The US has been pushing for an early passage of the Bill given that the American companies are feeling left behind in the race as other major players from countries like France and Russia have already inked deals with India.

The Indian side will raise the issue of extradition of Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley, who has confessed to plotting the Mumbai terror attacks, they said.

India wants direct access to the Lashkar e Tayiba operative to unravel the entire conspiracy behind the Mumbai carnage.

Dr Singh was received warmly by Obama. Officials said the atmosphere was cordial as the two sides gave their perspectives on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.

A white canopy was erected to the entry of Blair House and there was tight security at Lafayette Park and the area around White House.

While the Indian delegation comprised National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar, the US team included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns.

The two leaders took stock of the progress in the implementation of the civilian nuclear deal.

The prime minister is understood to have conveyed to the US president India's apprehensions over the end-use of military aid given by America to Pakistan.

India has been maintaining that the military supplies and monetary aid given by the US are often used by Pakistan against Indian interests.

The two leaders also discussed the situation in Afghanistan against the backdrop of the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy unveiled by Obama a few months back, under which the US would send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan before it exits from the war-torn country.

Dr Singh is believed to have underlined that India would continue to play its role in Afghanistan as it has vital interests there.

India has made it clear that it would stick to its commitment in Afghanistan "with or without America" as it has crucial stakes in the stability of the country on its periphery.

India has been involved in a number of developmental projects in Afghanistan and has vowed to continue with them despite frequent attacks by the Taliban on its interests there.

As the Obama Administration is aggressively pushing for UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, the issue is also believed to have come up for talks between the two leaders.

Sources said India's policy on Afghanistan will be determined by its own interests and not by what others do.

They noted that India and the US had common goals in Afghanistan, that the country should be stable, peaceful and there should be no outside interference. But the question was about reaching there, they said while emphasising the need for coordination.

Image: US President Barack Obama (R) meets with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Blair House in Washington DC.

Photograph: Paresh Gandhi

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