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'India expects total review of ties'

India attaches "highest importance" to ties with US, PM said on leaving for US.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 10:10 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left on Saturday for his first official visit to the US, stating India attached the "highest importance" to the already deepening strategic ties between the world's largest democracies.

"India attaches the highest importance to further developing and strengthening the strategic partnership with the US, both in the bilateral context as well as to strengthen our partnership to meet global challenges," Manmohan Singh said here before his departure for Washington.

Stressing the need for a comprehensive review of bilateral ties and the sharing of democratic ethos, he said: "In my meetings with President George W Bush, I look forward to a comprehensive review of our bilateral relations. The US is our largest trading partner."

Manmohan Singh underlined the new mood of optimism in India-US ties and placed bilateral relations in the context of New Delhi's desire to emerge as a global power.

"My visit to the US is an important element of our effort to establish friendly and productive relations abroad so as to optimise the benefits for India's development and for our security and foreign policy interests."

The Prime Minister will stop at Frankfurt en route to Washington for a three-day visit to the US. He will meet Bush on Monday at the White House.

Among other important engagements, he will address a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday and the National Press Club on Wednesday before heading back home on Thursday via Geneva.

Meetings are also scheduled with the Senate leadership, the India Caucus in the US Congress, leading US and Indian CEOs and a cross section of the vibrant Indian American community.

Minister of State Prithviraj Chauhan, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman
Montek Singh Ahluwalia, National Security Advisor MK Narayanan and Principle Secretary to the Prime Minister TKA Nair are also accompanying Manmohan Singh.

Indian External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, currently in New York, will join the Prime Minister in the US capital.

Manmohan Singh's visit to the US is likely to see a breakthrough in the crucial area of civilian nuclear energy and enhanced economic cooperation covering trade, investments and technology.

"We hope to strengthen our relations in the field of science and technology and hope to enhance the content of our interactions in the field of space and civilian nuclear energy cooperation," he said.

Underlining the key themes of his Washington agenda, Manmohan Singh stressed on accelerated economic cooperation relating to trade, investment and technology collaboration.

The India-US CEOs forum, which was formed recently, has been entrusted with the task of pushing economic engagement between the two countries to a new level.

"Some of the initiatives under consideration include enhancing the content of our economic and energy dialogues; global initiatives on democracy and on combating HIV/AIDS and on agricultural education and research," he added.

The US has hailed India as a rising power and promised to help it to become a global power in its own right. The Bush administration has set great store by this visit that may well prove to be a turning point in the history of India-US relations.

India similarly has great expectations from Manmohan Singh's visit in key areas like the removal of remaining sanctions on civilian nuclear technology, accelerated capital investments in infrastructure and collaboration in frontier areas of research like biotechnology and nanotechnology.

Evolving a strategy to fight terrorism will be another item on Manmohan Singh's agenda. He is likely to appeal to Bush to evolve a common strategy combating transnational terrorism. Strategic issues related to South Asia and China may also figure in the talks.