India PM Manmohan Singh to begin key US visit

Manmohan Singh Mr Singh is expected to discuss the implementation of the civilian nuclear deal between the two countries

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Indian PM Manmohan Singh is to begin a four-day visit to the US during which he will hold talks with President Barack Obama.

Mr Singh will also meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York during the visit.

Mr Singh's meeting with Mr Obama is expected to focus on the civilian nuclear deal between the two countries.

Mr Obama said in 2010 that Washington and Delhi's relationship would be one of the century's defining partnerships.

Before leaving for the US on Wednesday morning, Mr Singh said that India's relationship with the US had "transformed into a global strategic partnership" over the past decade.

In his meeting with Mr Obama on Friday, Mr Singh is expected to discuss the implementation of the nuclear deal, ways of boosting defence and trade ties, and the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US-led forces next year, reports say.

Trade between two countries has grown from $9bn (£5.9bn) in 1995 to nearly $100bn this year.

Correspondents say India is concerned about next year's withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

India has spent $2bn in aid to Afghanistan and fears the return of Taliban once the US leaves.

Mr Singh is also likely to raise concerns over proposed changes in US immigration laws which India believes will affect its skilled info-tech professionals.

"Keen to revive a relationship that was once on the fast track, Prime Minister Singh and President Obama are expected to underline the need to extricate the strategic partnership between their two countries from the web of regulations and processes that has blocked progress in key areas such as defence, civil nuclear energy and trade," the Indian Express newspaper said.

Mr Singh will also meet his newly-elected Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, a meeting which will be eagerly watched in South Asia.

Peace talks between the two countries have been stalled for the past two years, and dialogue could ease recent tensions along the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between the two countries.

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