After a successful two-day visit to France, during which he secured French support for India's civilian nuclear programme, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left on Tuesday for New York, where he would hold talks with United States President George W Bush and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
Dr Singh, who would be addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, was given a ceremonial farewell at Orly Airport before he boarded the special Air India flight for New York, along with his delegation that included External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.
Prior to his departure, he met India Studies scholars at his hotel. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin hosted a dinner in his honour on Monday night. Officials described Dr Singh's visit as 'highly successful' and said it marked a giant step in strengthening and deepening the bilateral relationship.
Like the US and Britain, France also acknowledged the need for full international civilian nuclear cooperation with India and promised to work towards this objective with the 44-member Nuclear Suppliers Group and other countries. They termed as significant, the decision of both countries to firm up a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement and another framework agreement on defence cooperation at an early date.
The officials said during talks with President Jacques Chirac, Dr Singh had appreciated France's reaffirmation of support for India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. The Indian side has expressed interest in France's proposals in the area of development financing and for the reform of international governance of the environment.
During the parleys, the two leaders signalled their intention to take Indo-French ties to a new and higher level. The officials said France shared India's concerns over the global threat posed by terrorism and agreed to jointly fight the scourge.
The two sides have also decided to strengthen cooperation in dealing with other global challenges like proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and promoting development which is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. Dr Singh's visit, at the invitation of the French President, illustrated the importance attached by the two countries to further bolster the strategic partnership, initiated in January 1998, the officials said.
The officials said Dr Singh also effectively conveyed to French CEOs that the economic reforms process was irreversible and they should take advantage of the immense business opportunities that have opened up in India. Dr Singh has conveyed to Chirac that he was looking forward to the French leader's visit to India next year on February 20-21.
Within hours of his arrival in New York, Dr Singh will meet President Bush, at the latter's request. The meeting is scheduled to take place at 6.45 pm (4.15 am IST Wednesday), four hours after Dr Singh's arrival in New York.
This will be their second meeting in less than two months, after they signed a historic deal in Washington during Dr Singh's visit, under which the US offered to resume nuclear fuel supplies to Indian reactors.
The two leaders are likely to review progress on the agreement between the two countries under which both sides are expected to take follow up steps in implementing the deal.