msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/24/2006 1:14:48 PM ET 2006-01-24T18:14:48

President Bush said Tuesday that he plans to visit Pakistan and India in March.

The announcement of a trip to the South Asian nuclear rivals, made while the president was meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Washington, follows on the heels of a trip to New Delhi by Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns last week.

Burns met with India's Foreign Secretary Sharam Saran to discuss an initiative that would allow India to permit nuclear power plant construction. The change would require New Delhi to proposes a program of transparency to show a clear separation between its civilian and military nuclear facilities, while putting the civilian under international safeguards.

The move is controversial. Companies interested in doing business in India support the deal, while observers worried about proliferation focus on the risks.

India and Pakistan have fought several wars over contested territory along their borders since they were separated into two countries in 1947, and have several times set off international alarms over the possibility of a nuclear conflict.

Bush's trip to Pakistan was likely to focus on the war on terrorism, in which Islamabad has been an ally. The United States has recently conducted heavy airstrikes on suspected al-Qaida sites in Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan.

MSNBC.com's Kari Huus and Reuters contributed to this report.

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