President George Bush looks forward to India visit

US President George W Bush and First Lady Laura Bush are looking forward to their visit to India early in 2006 as relations between the two countries are "poised for a very significant advance in the coming months." "It was conveyed to me that President Bush and the First Lady are very much looking forward to the forthcoming visit to India," Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told reporters at the end of his two-day official visit to the US.

"I in turn assured the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor and my interlocutor at the State Department, Nicholas Burns that a very warm welcome awaits President Bush in India and that we would like this visit not only to be a demonstration of the transformation which has taken place in India-US relations during the past year but would also have a lot of substance in that relationship."

Saran had a hectic schedule here with his meetings spread over the Departments of State, Defence, Commerce, Energy and Capitol Hill. "It was a very crowded agenda...and I go back very satisfied with the progress that has been achieved in the relationship between our two countries. We have achieved considerable advance in terms of the implementation of the various understandings which were reached on July 18 and I believe we have a very good foundation for taking our relations to a much higher level," Saran remarked.

Asked whether Bush's visit to India could still be considered "historic" or "landmark" without a deal secured on civilian nuclear cooperation, Saran maintained that it was not fair to peg bilateral relations on any one single issue.

"India-US relationship is very wide-ranging," Saran replied going to list not only the depth and width of bilateral understandings but also what the two countries are doing on a range of global issues and challenges such as HIV/AIDS, global terrorism and the UN Fund for Democracy.

"I don't think it is fair to really peg India-US relations only on one particular thing. It is very wide- ranging...we have had a positive exchange of views on civilian nuclear energy cooperation and I go back very encouraged", the Foreign Secretary said.

Saran was asked to comment on the issue of the separation of the civilian and military nuclear facilities and in a perception that the sooner this is done, it could move the process faster. "Both the United States of America and India are conscious of the timeline in respect of the implementation of this agreement and we have exchanged ideas on the implementation of the July 18 agreement," the senior Indian official said, reports Chennai Online. I.L.

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