'US-India nuke deal will be completed soon'

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Washington, Nov 8: At a White House Diwali function, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns has said that he believes in the US-India civil nuclear agreement and hopes that ''we will see it completed very soon.'' ''We are working on civil-nuclear cooperation, as I'm sure you are aware, and all of us in government are deeply grateful for the strong support the Indian-American community has shown for this initiative,'' he said.

He said, ''we are proud to share in the celebration of Diwali, for the fifth year, here at the White House.'' Also present at yesterday's function was Treasury Secretary Henry M Paulson, Jr who, as Burns put it, ''just returned from a very successful trip to India.'' Though President Bush was not present, a letter with his signature was given to participants, greeting them on the occasion. Representatives of Indian-American community also attended.

Mr Burns said, ''Secretary Paulson is working on a major infrastructure initiative that would harness the private sectors in India and the United States 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,'' he said.

Last week, the US House of Representatives approved a resolution recognizing the significance of Diwali, the 'festival of lights.' The house adopted the resolution by a vote of 358-0, with 204 Democrats and 154 Republicans supporting it.

It not only acknowledges an important feast in the Hindu, Sikh and Jain religions, but recognizes the importance of the South Asian community in the United States.

Earlier, Mr Burns said, the rate of legal immigrants from India who become American citizens had now increased from 56 per cent in 1995 to 65 per cent.

''That is a remarkable statistic. 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.'' He said 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.

Burns said, ''Cooperation between our two governments has risen to unprecedented levels in the history of our bilateral relations. In the last few years, we have launched important initiatives in areas including education, agriculture, clean energy, counter-terrorism, space research, and economic development.''

UNI

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