Mukherjee’s US visit to focus on n-deal

February 26th, 2008 - 8:46 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 26 (IANS) The whole gamut of India-US relations, including their landmark civil nuclear deal, will be the focus of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Washington next month. “Obviously, we want to focus on the major issues in our relationship, our regional cooperation in South Asia, Afghanistan, civil nuclear accord, our energy cooperation, our space cooperation, our agriculture cooperation and the relationship across the board,” a senior US official said.

“We look forward to it,” US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, the chief interlocutor from the US side on the civilian nuclear deal, told reporters Monday after an address at the Council of Foreign Relations, a Washington think tank.

While exact dates for Mukherje’s visit have not yet been fixed, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “is looking forward to welcoming Foreign Minister Mukherjee to the United States”, he said.

Burns, who is leaving the State Department next month for “personal reasons”, said he is elated at India’s decision to extend the tenure of its ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, in Washington, describing it as “good karma”.

“He is a great friend of ours and so we are very pleased that he will be staying on,” he said. “Ambassador Sen has done a magnificent job, (and) he has the full trust of the United States government.”

“I think that it means that the positive direction that Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh and President (George) Bush have given is going to continue,” he said, noting that Sen was a key voice in Washington in favour of the deal.

“It’s so important you know, we have a great American ambassador in Delhi, David Mulford, (and) we really respect Ronen Sen. So we are pleased to continue to work with him.”

Asked if Sen’s continuing in Washington would make him rethink his own decision to leave the Administration, before the completion of the accord, Burns laughed and said, “My decision is definitive.”

But “we are great champions of our relationship with India,” he said. “I think the US-India relationship is going to be very strong. We’ve got a lot of areas we can work in. We’ve gone through a lot together and I think the future is very bright between the two countries.”

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