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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 13:17 GMT
Bush to hail Indian partnership
President Bush in Hyderabad, Friday 3 March 2006
Mr Bush visited an agricultural university in Hyderabad
US President George W Bush is to outline his vision of a new strategic partnership with India, on the final day of his visit to the country.

In a speech in Delhi, Mr Bush will focus on the values that he says unite the two countries.

It follows the finalising on Thursday of a controversial deal on nuclear co-operation between the US and India.

The agreement gives India access to US technology, although it has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

From India, Mr Bush will travel to Pakistan, where his talks are expected to focus on the fight against terrorism.

Hi-tech hub

In his speech to political and business leaders, Mr Bush will say that India is and will be a key player in the world's most rapidly developing corner, and that a strong relationship is vital for American interests.

HAVE YOUR SAY
With the India-US accord, the West has created a long-term ally and friend in the East
Arun Khanna, Indianapolis, United States

The White House says the president will focus on shared values, especially the two countries' commitment to democracy.

Earlier, Mr Bush highlighted the importance of economic ties between the US and India with a brief visit to the southern Indian hi-tech city of Hyderabad.

Hyderabad is one of India's most important industrial centres and the headquarters of many US companies on the sub-continent, including the computer software giant Microsoft.

Addressing young business leaders, President Bush said the increasing wealth of cities like Hyderabad presented huge possibilities for US firms.

"The classic opportunity for our American farmers and entrepreneurs and small businesses to understand is there is a 300 million-person market of middle class citizens here in India," the president said.

And he said improved trade would compensate for the jobs lost to competition from India's world beating out-sourcing and computer software industries.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Hyderabad says Mr Bush's comments were warmly welcomed by his audience.

But many of the city's large Muslim population closed their shops in protest at the visit. Left-wing groups also staged protests.

In India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh, clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims in a predominantly Muslim area in the capital, Lucknow.

Muslims called a strike in protest at President Bush's visit and tried to enforce it by forcing Hindu traders to shut shops.

Nuclear accord

Our correspondent says that in choosing Hyderabad as his only Indian destination outside Delhi, Mr Bush shifted attention away from the controversial nuclear co-operation deal and on to the enormous potential for trade between India and the US.

On Thursday, Mr Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ironed out differences on a deal that reverses US policy, which had restricted nuclear co-operation since India first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

NUCLEAR POWER IN INDIA
India has 14 reactors in commercial operation and nine under construction
Nuclear power supplies about 3% of India's electricity
By 2050, nuclear power is expected to provide 25% of the country's electricity
India has limited coal and uranium reserves
Its huge thorium reserves - about 25% of the world's total - are expected to fuel its nuclear power programme long-term
Source: Uranium Information Center

The agreement was welcomed by the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The deal still has to be ratified by the US Congress.

"It would be a milestone, timely for ongoing efforts to consolidate the non-proliferation regime, combat nuclear terrorism and strengthen nuclear safety," Mohamed ElBaradei said.

He called it "an important step towards satisfying India's growing need for energy".

The UK and France also hailed the deal.

But the agreement, under which the US has dropped demands that India join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), was criticised by some members of the US Congress, who said it could lead to the spread of nuclear weapons.

Ed Markey, senior House Democrat, said the agreement was a "historic nuclear failure" that compromised American security.

"The president has blown a hole in the nuclear rules the whole world has been playing by," Mr Markey said.

The Pentagon used the visit to announce that Washington has offered to sell India advanced fighter aircraft as part of an expanding military partnership.


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