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US poll results not to affect deepening India ties: Official

Given the bipartisan support for America's India policy, US officials expect a continued push by President Barack Obama for deepening ties with New Delhi despite Republicans capturing the House of Representatives.

world Updated: Nov 06, 2010 10:27 IST

Given the bipartisan support for America's India policy, US officials expect a continued push by President Barack Obama for deepening ties with New Delhi despite Republicans capturing the House of Representatives.

"The great story about India is that we have bipartisan consensus on our foreign policy towards India. So there should not be any impact" of the mid-term election results on India-US relations, a senior State Department official told IANS.

"I think we are going to see continued push for deepening and strengthening these ties across the board," the official, who could not be named as per practice, said as Obama Friday embarked on a trip to what he has described as an "indispensable partner of the 21st century."

Asked about the next big thing in India-US relations after their landmark civil nuclear deal, the diplomat said: "We are not focused on a single thing. We have now got a whole lot of big things."

Without being specific ahead of Obama's visit, the official spoke of enhanced cooperation in clean energy - "a tremendous big idea" - and agriculture as also how technology can provide access to citizens to be more informed about their governments.

Looking at how far the two sides have come in defence cooperation, the official said, "We are hopeful - though not on this visit - an American company will be selected for the MRCA (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal."

"That would send a very positive signal about the way we'll be able to work together in future."

Two American companies - Boeing and Lockheed Martin - are among six contenders for the $10 billion deal for 126 combat planes for the Indian Air Force.

India's signing of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) was a "terrific piece of news", the official said. However, the two sides are "still in discussions and I can't speak for the companies" over how to take the nuclear deal forward. "Obviously we are looking for a level playing field."

India has also initiated talks with US companies which still have some concerns over India's nuclear liability law making suppliers and operators liable for 80 years.

On the contentious H1B visa fee hike and outsourcing issues, the official admitted that "Indian companies are not very pleased." But "overall there is no doubt that there is terrific economic relationship that continues to grow and prosper."

"For us India is a new tremendous economic partner and strategic partner. So we are very optimistic," the diplomat said noting that service is a big part of the India-US trade stack.

The official would not agree that Obama was less warm towards India than the previous President George Bush.

"I don't think it's true remotely. It's not true at all," he said noting that the Obama administration carried forward the nuclear deal and completed the reprocessing agreement with India in record time. "That in itself is a big deal."

Not only did Obama honour Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the first state visitor of his administration, but has also gone on record repeatedly about the admiration he feels for him. "You will see in the course of this visit that that's a genuinely felt affection."

Since the start of India-US strategic dialogue across the board, the pace of India-US cooperation "is unlike anything in the past," the official asserted.

India is viewed as the cornerstone of Obama's important trip to Asia's four big free market democracies, the official said.

Part of the overall message is that "we are doing a lot that will continue to become transformative of our ties with India on both economic and strategic sides," he stated.