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Nuclear Cooperation, Anti-terrorism Top Bush's Agenda in South Asia Tour
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US President George W. Bush and his entourage concluded on Saturday a four-day visit to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, which was highlighted by the nuclear energy cooperation deal with India and war against terrorism.

The visit is believed to be, in recent years, the most important visit by US top leader to South Asia. Bush and leaders of the visited countries exchanged views over issues ranging from civil nuclear energy cooperation, trade, foreign investment to war against terror and democratic process.

Litmus test

Prior to Bush's visit India, mass media likened the planned signing of a nuclear deal, agreed in principle last July, to a litmus test of improving US-India relations.

Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced jointly that the detailed agreement, which will open most Indian reactors to international inspections and provide the growing nation with US civil nuclear technology, had been signed.

Under the agreement, India will separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities, a major move for overall civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

Political observers said that the landmark deal, which experienced prolonged bargaining, is of great significance.

It is not limited to the provision of thirsty and clean energy for India, and the promotion of international exchanges of environmental protection technology. But more importantly, the deal opens the door for US-India nuclear cooperation and thereby effectively accepted India's status as a nuclear-weapons power.

It also demonstrated in a way that grudges and suspicion between the two countries during and after the Cold War has been cleaned out greatly if not completely.

While the nuclear deal was finalized, the two nations also agreed to expand cooperation in agriculture, science and technology, and civil space, including space exploration, satellite navigation and earth science.

In addition, the US Defense Department also offered on Thursday to sell advanced F-16 and the F-18 combat aircraft to India. Such a rapid growing cooperation between Washington and New Delhi have prompted people to reach an conclusion that the United States and India are already on their marks to kick off an omnidirectional cooperation.

However, Americans have different opinions about what the Bush administration has offered to India, which has by now not yet signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Bush's supporters believe that the nuclear energy agreement, the most important achievement Bush got in the trip, will broaden bilateral exchanges and beef up their strategic partnership.

However, opponents worried about Bush's double standard over nuclear issue.

It is meaningless to have a "safeguarded" civilian nuclear energy program if there is an "un-safeguarded military nuclear program sitting right alongside it," said Rep. Edward Markey, co- chairman of the House Nuclear Nonproliferation Task Force.

The Democrat said that he was gathering support for a congressional resolution opposing the nuclear deal.

Under US law, the disputed agreement still needs the approval of the US Congress and the 44-member Nuclear Suppliers Group. In this sense, the disputed agreement will be facing some more challenges before it is implemented.

Black war
To people's surprise, almost all the activities Bush took in South Asia trip were arranged in a secret way. US officials did not announce Bush's visit to Afghanistan until he arrived in Kabul where he spent no more than four hours.

The suicide bombing attack, which occurred outside US consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, a day before Bush arrived in Islamabad has once again set US security officials' nerve on edge.

"With running lights off and window shades drawn, Air Force One hid its profile as it flew through the night bringing President Bush to Pakistan. Anti-American sentiment runs high in this Islamic nations and terrorist attacks are an ever-present threat," the Associated Press reported on Bush's arrival at the Islamabad international airport on Friday.

The vivid and to the point words are just a portrayal true to Bush's Pakistan journey.

It demonstrated from another side the main purpose of Bush's visit is to urge Islamabad to make stronger efforts to curb terrorist activities.

Pakistan is a staunch ally of the United States in war against terror. Mass media have noticed that in his daylong visit to Pakistan, Bush paid a lot of attention to anti-terrorism.

Bush did not spend his time evenly in three countries. Some analysts believed that India was in this time a key stop in Bush's tour, whereas that of Pakistan and Afghanistan, were symbolic.

Such an arrangement should result from a consideration of " diplomatic balance", analysts said.

(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2006)

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