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Bush visit to India centers on nuclear pact

Thousands protest U.S. president's first trip to country

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Indian Muslim protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans Tuesday at a demonstration in Mumbai.

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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- President Bush arrived Wednesday evening in India, where U.S. officials hope to hammer out a deal that would separate India's civilian and military nuclear programs.

On his trip, the U.S. leader is also trying to boost security and economic ties with India, the world's most-populous democracy and a nation with a booming economy.

The visit marks Bush's first trip to India, and U.S. National Security adviser Stephen Hadley described Bush's visit as a historic one in which a "broadening and deepening of the relationship between the United States and India" will be seen.

Before Bush arrived Wednesday evening, he made a five-hour stop in Afghanistan where he visited with President Hamid Karzai and spoke with U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base. (Full story)

In India, thousands of demonstrators chanted anti-U.S. slogans, waved signs and burned U.S. flags to protest the visit.

Bush will also try to soothe tensions between India and neighboring Pakistan, another nation with a nuclear capability.

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, but many in Washington want to see Islamabad make stronger efforts to dismantle terrorist training camps.

Bush said he will talk to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf about reports of militants crossing the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

"These infiltrations are causing harm to friends, allies, and cause harm to U.S. troops," Bush told reporters in Afghanistan. "It's an ongoing topic of conversation."

India's nuclear pledge

Under the proposed nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington, the United States would supply nuclear technology and fuel desperately needed by India to fuel its energy-starved economy.

Hadley said reaching a civilian nuclear agreement "is a way we can make India a global partner with this non-proliferation."

He rejected any suggestions that any such agreement would be an end run of the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which India has refused to sign.

"This is actually the vehicle to bring India onto our page, in terms of proliferation policy," Hadley said.

India has pledged in return to separate its military and civilian nuclear programs and open up the civilian ones to international inspection.

Some members of the U.S. Congress, who must approve the deal, believe this pact will undermine the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Meanwhile, some Indian scientists and nuclear industry supporters say the pact will erode their nation's military ambitions.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who met Bush at the airport, has tried to ease those fears.

Despite the potential political fallout, there is a lot to gain for both sides from such a deal going ahead, one analysts said.

"The essence of this strategic partnership is to provide a countervailing influence to China ... to act as a restraint on the exercise of Chinese power," security analyst Brahma Chellaney told CNN.

There is an economic incentive for Washington, as well. A more buoyant Indian economy fueled by U.S. civilian nuclear technology could be good news for U.S. manufacturers eager to sell into India's booming marketplace.

As of July, India had an estimated population of more than 1 billion residents, according to The World Factbook compiled by the CIA.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said some sticking points for the deal remained.

"The one thing that is absolutely necessary is that any agreement would assure that once India has decided to put a reactor under safeguard that it remain permanently under safeguard," she said.

That would prevent India from transferring a reactor from civilian to military status and exempting it from international inspections.

Rice said she was uncertain whether there would be an agreement during Bush's trip but said the success or failure of his visit would not be determined by that.

"We're still working on it," she said. "Obviously it would be an important breakthrough" for the United States and India."

CNN's Satinder Bindra contributed to this report.

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