New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday embarked on a 10-day visit to the US and France which is expected to mark the country’s return to global nuclear commerce after 30 years in the cold.

Confident: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looks forward to discussing entire range of bilateral issues with the US. Aijaz Rahi

Singh, who will also attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York and an India-EU gathering in Marseilles, expects to finalize at least one landmark atomic deal before returning on October 2. In New York, he will meet world leaders including Pakistan’s newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, said foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon.

Singh will then make a brief visit to Washington on 25 September, when officials hope to sign a bilateral accord allowing India to buy nuclear power plants, technology and fuel.

India, which is critically short of energy to fuel its booming economy, is looking at investments worth billions of dollars in its power sector.

Signed by US President George W. Bush and Singh in July 2005, the pact is awaiting final approval from the US Congress.

Lalit Mansingh, a former ambassador to Washington, noted the US Congressional calendar was “very tight", with the session slated to end 26 September ahead of the 4 November polls.

But the passage of the deal “doesn’t seem impossible", he said, pointing to mounting internal pressure for an endorsement ahead of Singh’s arrival in Washington.

Before leaving India, Singh said he looked forward to discussing “the entire range of issues on our bilateral agenda with the US, including our civil nuclear initiative".

India, which agreed to open some of its reactors for inspection, already has approvals to buy fuel and technology from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls global atomic trade.

Mansingh said that, even if the US deal was not signed, a nuclear cooperation accord with France was likely to be completed in Paris on 30 September.