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Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Saturday, 16 July 2005 12:41 UK

Major push for India-US relations

By Seema Sirohi in Washington

Manmohan Singh with George W Bush
Mr Singh (left) and President Bush
The current visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the United States is expected to lead to a deeper and broader strategic partnership between the two countries.

The enthusiasm among both US and Indian officials to push the relationship to a much higher level is palpable.

The Bush administration is pulling out all the stops to welcome Mr Singh to the White House to show its seriousness about engaging with India.

Mr Singh will address a joint session of the US Congress - a rare honour granted to close allies - where there is bipartisan support for stronger relations.

The rise of India and China is more important than the disintegration of the Soviet Union or the unification of Germany
Robert Blackwill
Former US ambassador to India

He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation that includes Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.

The two sides are working on agreements covering science and technology, energy, education, agriculture and space and nuclear cooperation.

There are also attempts to make India a base to manufacture drugs to treat HIV-Aids.

News focus on India

The push for a broader partnership with India has gained momentum during the second Bush Administration as the US builds alliances in Asia.

Much of the credit for this new focus on India has gone to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her close advisers who believe India's geo-political importance is growing given its expanding economy and military strength.

Condoleezza Rice with Indian foreign minister Natwar Singh
Condoleezza Rice is credited with improving the relationship with India
The Bush Administration has publicly said it wants to help India become a world power.

President Bush is expected to announce US willingness to help India overcome its serious energy needs with nuclear technology - something the US has long denied India because it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

There is, however, considerable opposition within US policy circles to treating India as an exception to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

But the US president has been pushing for the use of nuclear energy as a way to meet the growing global demand for oil.

Analysts say he may invite India to join the US as a partner in international nuclear research projects, something that Indian scientists have wanted for some time.

Business and defence ties

The two leaders are due to issue a joint statement after their official talks, outlining their vision for the future.

Indian officials expect that Mr Bush will end the remaining sanctions imposed against India after Delhi conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

US F16C fighter [Picture: US Central Command}
Defence ties are also on the agenda

Indian officials say that one of the highlights of the visit will be the newly constituted chief executive officers (CEOs) forum, which includes top business leaders from both countries.

Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen said 10 CEOs each from both sides covering a variety of industries will advise both governments on how to increase US investment in India and start joint production in the crucial defence sector.

The recently concluded defence framework agreement envisages US defence corporations jointly producing and marketing weapons to third countries.

'Convergence of interests'

A report released on Thursday by the Washington-based think tank, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recommends not only greater space and nuclear cooperation between the US and India but says Washington should support India's aspirations for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

While US support for India's bid for a seat at the UN top table seems unlikely, there will be other concrete achievements, say both Indian and US officials.

Robert Blackwill, US ambassador to India in the first Bush administration, said while releasing the report that India was a natural partner for the US given the convergence of national interests of both countries.

"The routes of the international system are changing right now. The rise of India and China is more important than the disintegration of the Soviet Union or the unification of Germany," he said.



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