US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R Nicholas Burns has thanked the Indian-American community for its strong support for the India-US civil nuclear deal and hopes it will be completed soon.
"I believe in the civil nuclear deal and I hope we will see it completed very soon," Washington's chief interlocutor for the deal said at the fifth annual White House Diwali Celebration on Wednesday.
Burns said: "India's rise to power is undeniably in the interests of the United States. Both India and the US are multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, secular and democratic, known for freedom and the rule of law and both value the importance of cultural differences within a nation."
"This philosophical value, celebrated and understood by all, like the myriad versions of the Ramayana, makes India and the United States better able to understand one another. From my perspective, that makes the relationship between India and the United States, the world's largest and oldest democracies, a natural fit."
Indian Americans are truly a "living bridge" between the US and India, helping to foster further interactions between Americans and Indians on a range of matters -- education, business, science and trade -- that enrich both nations' cultures, he said.
"Your efforts in the community, bringing people together, guide our way in building a strong US-India partnership," Burns said describing people-to-people and private sector interactions as the real measure of bilateral ties.
Noting that the rate of legal immigrants from India who become American citizens has increased from 56 per cent in 1995 to 65 per cent today, he said: "It means that two-thirds decide not simply to live here as permanent residents, but to take that next step of allegiance to the United States."
"I think there is no question that the United States is better off as a result," Burns said noting students from India come here to learn, and end up becoming leaders in their fields and changing American life -- people like Rajat Gupta, or Indra Nooyi, or the late astronaut Kalpana Chawla.
Duke University did a study on Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and found that one out of seven start-ups had an Indian founder or co-founder, he recalled.
Describing business and personal links that tie the US and Indian high technology sectors "as a driving force in the growing American and Indian partnership", Burns said they serve as a challenge to government. "We are trying to meet that challenge by establishing stronger and more durable US-India ties across a range of areas."
President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said, have redoubled their predecessors' efforts on what the two countries can achieve together.
Cooperation between the two governments has risen to unprecedented levels in the history of their bilateral relations, Burns said. "In the last few years, we have launched important initiatives in areas including education, agriculture, clean energy, counter-terrorism, space research, and economic development."
US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's recent trip to India underscored the rapid pace of cooperation, collaboration and innovation between the private sectors in the US and India, he said.
Burns is working on a major infrastructure initiative that would harness the private sectors in India and the US to help build what India needs. "Expanding our engagement on all levels of government, civil society and the private sector will encourage India's emergence as a positive force on the world scene," he said.
The story of Diwali, he said, "can inspire us to celebrate our sense of unity and community in diversity, and our commitment to cross-cultural understanding. And it should inspire us to build anew the extraordinary partnership between India and the United States."