In a significant move, coming close on the heels of India sharing key evidence on the Mumbai train blasts, the United States has decided to give a major push to cooperation with India on counter-terrorism.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns will be leading a large delegation of officials to New Delhi next month for discussions to upgrade the present level of cooperation under the auspices of the Joint Working Group on Counter-terrorism.
Disclosing the decision to enhance this cooperation, Burns told Indian correspondents on Friday: "We owe this to India because we are friends and strategic partners…I want to say that because we do have great sympathy for what has happened in India.."
Burns also informed that the Bush administration was making a determined bid to see that the Senate takes up the Indo-US nuclear deal legislation for debate and vote in the "lame duck session" following the November 7 Congressional elections.
Stating that the nuclear deal remains a "top legislative priority" for the administration, Burns spoke about consultations with both Republican and Democratic leadership and said: "We hope they will schedule it. We hope this is going to be voted upon."
Asked if the administration had a 'Plan B' in case the deal is again crowded out because of other legislative issues, Burns said the administration was confident it would be taken up.
He discounted the possibility of the North Korean nuclear test complicating matters for passage of the India deal. While North Korea has exited from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, India is being brought into the global non-proliferation regime, he said and referred to India's excellent track record in safeguarding its nuclear technology.
Burns said his upcoming visit to New Delhi will also focus on the series of new initiatives agreed upon by President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last March.
"We are determined to move forward with our strategic relationship with India - and to build that relationship in as ambitious and positive a way as we can," Burns said.