US President George W Bush on Thursday said in a major speech on his government's Asian policy that the United States under his administration has dramatically turned around Washington-New Delhi ties, citing the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal.
"Countries that share our democratic ideals should be natural partners of the United States. Yet when I took office, our relations with many free nations in Asia were strained," Bush told a large audience at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre in Bangkok.
"For example, America has dramatically improved our ties with India, the world's largest democracy, including a historic agreement on civilian nuclear energy," he said.
The US president, on a two-day visit to Thailand on his way to attend the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing on Friday, was blunt in his criticism of China's human rights record.
"I have spoken clearly, candidly, and consistently with China's leaders about our deep concerns over religious freedom and human rights," Bush said.
"So America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates, and religious activists. We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly, and labor rights not to antagonise China's leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential," he added.
In his last major address in Asia, the US president also came down heavily on Myamnar's military rulers for denying democratic freedom and civil liberties in the country.
"We seek an end to tyranny in Burma. This noble cause has many devoted champions, and I happen to be married to one of them. America reiterates our call on Burma's military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners. And we will continue working until the people of Burma have the freedom they deserve," he said.
The US president will meet a group of Myanmar dissidents living in Thailand over lunch today and US First Lady Laura Bush will visit a medical clinic at a resettlement camp for Myanmar ethnic refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border.
The president also praised Asia's support to the US-led war on terrorism, "We strongly support democracies like Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which are making determined stands against extremism and showing that Islam and tolerance go hand-in-hand."