US advocates new relationship with India

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Washington, Oct 4 (UNI) Apparently encouraged by the Congressional approval of the US-India civil nuclear agreement, Washington visualises a ''new relationship'' with New Delhi, the contours and contents of which are yet to be spelt out.

The important thing about her trip to New Delhi was ''to talk about the next steps in the US-India relationship, not the last step,'' US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told mediapersons aboard her plane, on way to India.

''I think we can now draw a line under that and talk about the breadth of this relationship,'' she added.

Ms Rice said the nuclear accord did show that the ''relationship is now ready to move to this new level and to exploit all the things that we can do together.'' Highlighting the need for cooperation in a variety of fields, ranging from defence to education, and agriculture to economy, she said, ''this is a relationship that is very strong and broad and deep.'' ''We also can now move from this foundation to global issues,'' she said, drawing attention to the cooperation between the two countries in Afghanistan and in humanitarian relief, as in what India and the US did at the time of the Indonesia events. ''And, there is much more that the US and India can do together,'' she added.

The Secretary of State said she was going ''to just affirm the extraordinary progress that we've made in US-India relations under the visionary leadership of President George W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I think this is a relationship that has now a firm foundation to reach its full potential.'' Asked whether she would sign the agreement in New Delhi, she said it was not certain whether she would sign it during her one-day visit because ''there are a lot of administrative details left to be worked out.'' Ms Rice said Mr Bush looked forward to signing the bill containing the agreement, which was passed on Wednesday by the US Congress but was not a precondition for her discussions in New Delhi.

In reply to a question, she said ''Mr Bush does not have to sign before I do. But we are working through the details of this. I will let you know. But the whole purpose of this trip is to move forward, not to look at where we are.'' Asked whether the US wanted India to sign a convention on liability, limiting damage if there was an accident before US businesses could really benefit from this, Ms Rice said, ''We have a letter of intent from the Indians that we believe is a very firm set of commitments and a framework for making sure that our businesses can do business in India. So I'm satisfied about the details of all of this. This really is about administrative matters, not about the substance of it.'' In reply to another question about India again testing a nuclear device, she said, ''I think we've been very clear about US views on this issue. The Indians have a lot at stake in this. And they have made it very clear that what they want to do is to move on to civil nuclear cooperation.'' ''And I think they understand the grounds on which we've done this. The US is going to remain true to its commitments under the Hyde Act and true to the commitments that Mr Bush has made to Dr Singh. And I know that the Indians will do the same,'' Ms Rice added.

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