Washington, Oct.3 : U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that she is looking forward to her meetings with the Indian leadership during her visit to New Delhi.
Though her schedule is yet to be confirmed, Rice told media and officials at a State Department reception here that ties between India and the United States were on a firm footing, and added that the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation deal should be seen as a part of Washington's "enduring" friendship with New Delhi.
"....It is indeed an historic agreement. It is an agreement that cements an effort that we have been making for some time to bring together the world's largest democracy with the world's oldest continuous democracy," Rice said at a reception by State Department to thank all those responsible for getting the legislation through Congress.
Rice said there were a lot of architects and driving forces behind the agreement, which "is not the only element of the relationship" with India and that the friendship runs deeper and includes economic and cultural ties.
"... this has been Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President (George W ) Bush's vision to have this agreement cement and be one of the cornerstones of our relationship, but I just want to take a moment to say that it is not the only element of this relationship," she said.
"As much as the Civil Nuclear Agreement is a breakthrough, this is also a friendship that is based on values, a friendship that is based on ties, people-to-people ties... It is a relationship that is cultural. It is a relationship that goes very, very deep," Rice said.
"So as important as this agreement is, it is a part of a much broader framework for our enduring friendship" she added.
Acting Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Christopher Dodd, who had made a spirited defence of the deal, said the nuclear deal with act a "bedrock" for closer ties between the two countries which will be a "beacon of hope" for South Asia.
"There has been this sort of unspoken, but realized tension over the past 35 years or so that we needed to get beyond.
Senator Richard Lugar pointed to the intense interest the deal had generated in the two countries.
Among those attending the event were the Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Rood, Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California and Ambassador Raminder Singh Jassal, the Charge d'Affairs of the Indian Mission here.
".... the Civil Nuclear Initiative is one aspect of India-U.S. ties. But because of it represents such a change and transformation, it became emblematic of the new relationship. So we are at the end of the process and at the beginning of deeper cooperation," Jassal said.
Indian American community leaders were also present on the occasion.