As Ties Strengthen, Bush Plans To Visit India Soon

By T.C. Malhotra | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - President Bush is encouraging his administration to build a new relationship with India and he plans an early visit to India, visiting businessmen have reported.

"There is scope for a new U.S.-India relationship and the entire government machinery has been directed by President Bush to work towards that end," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a visiting delegation of Indian industrialists.

"Armitage ... was gung-ho on India, saying that India and the U.S. are natural allies," Confederation of Indian Industry president Sanjiv Goenka told journalists at the weekend.

The Bush administration, which is reviewing its entire sanctions policy, has been sending positive signals with respect to the future of sanctions imposed against India in the aftermath of nuclear tests conducted in May 1998.

Armitage said the Bush administration was working with Congress to lift the sanctions and hoped this would happen in a fairly short time.

When the subject came up during the meeting with the CII delegation, Armitage said sanctions had ceased to be an issue, Goenka reported, conveying the impression that their lifting was now a mere formality.

The U.S. has also indicated that relations with India will be pursued independently of those with third countries in the region.

"Armitage stressed that bilateral relations [between] the two largest democracies in the world ... stand on their own, indicating that it remains uninfluenced by Washington's relations with China or Pakistan," Goenka said.

He said the United States believed there was scope for new areas of cooperation, particularly in areas of biotechnology and genetics, energy, agriculture, trade and defense.

Significantly, the US has informed India that contentious issues such as labor and environmental standards will not be brought up during upcoming global trade negotiations. India's exports have suffered in the past due to the imposition of non-tariff barriers of this nature.

Goenka hailed the CII's visit to the U.S. as "one of the best visits any Indian delegation has had."

"At every meeting we had, at every level, India was looked at with a new respect by the U.S. administration. This is something which both countries must build on and develop," he said.

During its visit, the delegation met other senior administration officials, including Christina Rocca, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia and Alan Larson, under secretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs.

It also held discussions with the World Bank and U.S. lawmakers.