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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
US Senate launches India caucus
Hillary Clinton and India's US ambassador Lalit Mansingh
Hillary Clinton and India's US envoy Lalit Mansingh at the launch
A powerful new group has been launched by United States senators to further strengthen ties with India.

The bipartisan Senate India Caucus has an initial 32 members in the 100-strong upper house, including Hillary Clinton.

The leading aims of the caucus are to promote economic ties and strengthen co-operation on terrorism and nuclear proliferation issues.

It will also cover matters affecting Indian Americans, a population thought to number around two million.

'Birthday gift'

The group will be co-chaired by Mrs Clinton, a Democrat, and Republican Senator John Cornyn.

Mr Cornyn said: "The United States and India share a commitment to freedom, representative government, free market principles and the war against terror.

This is the most wonderful day in India-US relations
AK Mago, Dallas businessman

"Important differences do remain concerning India's nuclear weapons programmes, the pace of economic reform and trade."

India's ambassador in the US, Lalit Mansingh, who was 63 on Thursday and retires this week, said the caucus was "the best birthday gift I have ever been given in my life".

Mrs Clinton said at the launch in Washington that India and the US should jointly spearhead a global anti-nuclear proliferation campaign.

"The nuclear issue is an issue for all of humanity and the US and India, as democracies, have to lead us into a new century of co-operation in order to prevent proliferation."

The White House welcomed the launch of the caucus.

Press Secretary Scott McLellan said President George W Bush "appreciates efforts that move in the direction of strengthening our relations even more".

Senator Cornyn said more members of the house were expected to join the caucus soon.

There has been an Indian caucus in the House of Representatives since 1998.

It began with nine members and has grown to 185.

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