March 3, 2006

Bush embraces India as natural partner

By Tabassum Zakaria and Steve Holland

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush
declared on Friday that the United States and India were
"closer than ever before" and united in the drive against
terrorism but said New Delhi needs to lower trade barriers.

Bush wrapped up his first visit to India with a speech at
New Delhi's 16th century Old Fort where he lauded the United
States and India as two great democracies that must work
together to support pro-democracy movements around the world.

"The United States and India, separated by half the globe,
are closer than ever before, and the partnership between our
two nations has the power to transform the world," he said.

Showcasing relations that are closer now than at any time
since the Cold War, Bush called India "a natural partner of the
United States because we are brothers in the cause of human

Afterward Bush, whose three-day trip witnessed protests by
the country's Muslims, left for India's rival Pakistan.

Bush, who will arrive in Pakistan a day after a suicide
bombing in Karachi killed an American diplomat, said India
should not be concerned about U.S. ties with Islamabad.

The U.S. president, who earlier visited the technology city
of Hyderabad to talk up the benefits of global trade, defended
the outsourcing of thousands of American jobs to India that has
caused much grumbling from U.S. labor unions and led to calls
for action from some members of Congress.

Outsourcing and software exports are forecast to earn India
more than $20 billion in the fiscal year ending March, with
about 60 percent of that coming from U.S. companies.

Bush said Americans are benefiting from an expanded market
for U.S. goods in India and vowed Washington would not give in
to "the protectionists" but said India needs to do its part.

"India needs to continue to lift its caps on foreign
investment and make its rules and regulations more transparent
and to continue to lower its tariffs and open its markets to
American agricultural products, industrial goods and services,"
Bush said.

He also said India should enforce laws that protect
children and workers from trafficking, exploitation and abuse.


Bush's speech came a day after he sealed a landmark
civilian atomic cooperation deal with New Delhi that recognizes
India's status as a responsible nuclear power.

Bush hailed India as a successful multi-ethnic country that
can help advance the cause of democracy.

"We must stand with reformers and dissidents and civil
society organizations," he said.

Earlier in Hyderabad during the president's visit, hundreds
of Muslim youths fought pitched battles with policemen outside
a mosque about 16 km (10 miles) away in the city's old
quarters, throwing stones and bricks as they protested against
his visit.

Four people, including two policemen, were injured as
police caned the demonstrators, an officer said.

Two Muslim men were shot dead and 20 people injured in the
northern Indian city of Lucknow as protests spun out of control
and triggered communal clashes with Hindus, police said.

The trouble started when Hindus refused to heed a call by
Muslim demonstrators to close shops, leading to riots in which
stones were hurled at shops, vehicle windscreens smashed and
property burned, they said.

Traffic was very sparse in the usually choked streets and
bylanes of Hyderabad's old quarters as markets and businesses
shut down in protest.

"Osama is our ideal, we can die for Osama," shouted some
Muslim engineering students as they marched through the streets
carrying posters of al Qaeda leader bin Laden.

"He is a freedom fighter. He is our leader. We love him
more than our parents," said Mohtassin, a 19-year-old student
who gave only one name.

Protests were also staged in the national capital New Delhi
and Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state,
India's only Muslim-majority state.

Bush visited an agriculture university and toured the seed
research area where women in sarees bent and tended to green
patches where peanuts and soybeans had been planted.

The university began collaborating with Cornell University
of the United States in 2004 to develop Indian agriculture.

(Additional reporting by Palash Kumar and S. Radha Kumar in
HYDERABAD and Sharat Pradhan in LUCKNOW)