The meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W Bush was expected to usher in a "historic step forward" in the bilateral relationship, a senior American official has said.
Asserting that "the mutual interests of India and the United States are now coinciding more than ever before," the official said, "It is a new day in the relationship."
For the US, he said, there was no higher priority than expanding and broadening the relationship with India. "The US sees India as one of our most important partners worldwide, given the fact that India is a rising democratic power in the region and the world. We have never had an India-US relationship as comprehensive and as broad-based and so important in its full dimensions for both countries. We see India as one of our key partners worldwide," the official told Indian and American correspondents yesterday.
"We are very, very close now to completion of the NSSP (Next Steps in Strategic Partnership). That is why Monday's visit is so important. Our interests coincide more than ever before. That is one of the reasons why we have this emerging relationship at several levels," he said. The development of this relationship, said the senior official, is one of the most important undertakings the US has embarked on in its foreign policy. "It is the beginning of a new relationship."
The official expected a series of bilateral measures during the prime minister's visit in areas such as information technology, business, commerce, other economic issues, energy, space, disaster response, agriculture, science and technology and an initiative to preserve the Bengal Tiger.
The US official expected bilateral communiques and extensive factsheets to emerge out of the Bush-Singh talks on Monday, showing areas where the two countries will be working together. On the issue of India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council, he said after the reforms the US seeks in the UN are achieved, "I expect some evolution of the US position by September when the UN General Assembly meets."
The reform of the Security Council, he said, is "not an Indian issue; it is a global issue." "We expect India to play a larger role in the most important institutions," said the senior Bush Administration official, though the US is not yet ready to announce American support for India's permanent membership of the Security Council because the "timing is not proper".
"The issue will be taken up after the reforms of the UN, which are urgent, and have been agreed on," he said. Both countries, the official said, had mutual interest in stability and promoting democracy in South Asia and globally.
"You will see the US and India commit themselves to work together to promote democracy. India is the very first country to make a specific financial commitment to the Global Fund for Democracy -- an initiative proposed by President Bush. India and the United States have a joint interest in standing up for democracy worldwide. We both have an interest in global partnership on HIV/AIDS" and other issues, he said.
The official reiterated the position that America's relations with India and Pakistan were now dehyphenated. He also hoped that India will find opportunities to agree to a statement on the non-proliferation initiative.
At the recent G-8 meeting in Scotland, the official said, Bush told Singh that the US was interested in working with India in specific areas like space and energy, including nuclear energy. "These discussions will be continued".
On the situation in Iraq, he said countries have an interest in helping the government in areas of commerce as well as security wherever possible. "The US has had discussions with India in both areas".
Both the countries have also talked about the support they are giving to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to promote stability in that country.