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India, US relations closer than ever before: Bush

Addressing from the historical Purana Quila, the US President said he has come here as a friend.

india Updated: Mar 03, 2006 21:12 IST

US President George W Bush on Friday said relationship between India and the United States was "closer than ever before" and it has the power to transform the world.

"I have come to India as a friend," he said addressing a select gathering at the historic Purana Qila in New Delhi.

Bush said India has to lift caps on foreign investment and further open its markets to US business.

Observing that India and US would lead the way in meeting the global challenges, he said the biggest challenge was energy.

On the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal reached on Thursday, Bush said both sides agreed on the plan to implement this "historic initiative" which would strengthen the economy of both countries.

Bush's South Asia sojourn

March 1: In Afghanistan

Surprise visit

On Osama

March 1: In India

Red carpet welcome

March 2

Ceremonial reception

Visit to Rajghat

Nuclear deal

Kalam's banquet

March 3

In Hyderabad

Delhi's Purana Qila

Beginning his address with a "namaste", Bush said he was "dazzled" by the ancient land, which was the birthplace of many great religions which live side by side peacefully.

"You are inspired by the past and you can see the future. India is a natural ally for us," he said amid applause from the gathering.

He said the United States intends to open a new consulate in Hyderabad and an American Center in Delhi.

He also noted the contributions of people of Indian descent to American life and had a special mention for astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who lost her life in the Columbia Space Shuttle crash in 2003.

Bush said that for every nation divided by race, religion and culture, "India offers a hopeful path".

"World benefited from the example of India's democracy... It is a global power," Bush said.

The US President also praised India's efforts towards rehabilitation in Afghanistan.

On terrorism

US and India are allies in fighting terror. "In the long run we have to change the conditions that gave rise to terrorism," the President said.

On ties with Pakistan

"There was a time when US relations with Pakistan were a cause of concern for India. These days are over now. A prosperous Pakistan will be useful for India", said the US president.

Why Purana Quila?

Days before the Presidential visit began, scores of Indian and US personnel descended on the fort, which stands on the site where the ancient city of Indraprastha is believed to have existed, with truckloads of equipment and reviewed security of arrangements.

The entire complex, which also houses the Delhi Zoo and boat club, have been closed to visitors till March 4.

The historical landmark was chosen as "favourable venue" for its "picturesque setting" and the right "Indian touch".

After days of scouting, Bush's media managers, looking for "just the right" location for the address, rejected modern state-of-the-art venues for the ruins just to get the "perfect setting".

Though the Indian officials had turned down the request on security grounds, saying "the fort was not safe because of its openness", the American influence prevailed.

Soon after, the protected monument underwent a facelift with a massive cleaning drive being launched, fixing of new lights and fresh pathways among other changes.

The Purana Quila was the citadel of the city of Dinapanah (refuge of the faithful). The Mughal emperor Humayun started building it in 1533 but was completed by Sher Shah Suri, one of the enlightened rulers of Delhi who ruled during 1540-1545.

First Published: Mar 03, 2006 18:58 IST