Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington, the US has indicated its interest for cooperation with India in advanced weaponry and missile defence.
This was reinforced during talks visiting US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns had with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and senior officials here this week.
Bilateral security cooperation is expected to be one of the key areas for discussions Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee will have with his American counterpart Donald Rumsfeld during his ongoing visit to the US.
He is also meeting Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Before leaving for Washington, Mukherjee has made it clear that he was not carrying any shopping list of defence hardware and his visit, the first by an Indian Defence Minister to the US after a long gap, was exploratory in nature.
The US offer to supply to India F-16 warplanes is being debated in the Government here. The Defence Ministry is carrying out technical evaluation of the fighter aircraft but no decision has been taken so far to buy it.
While UN Security Council reforms is one of the important issues that will undoubtedly figure during the parleys Singh will have with President George W Bush, both American and Indian officials have contended that Indo-US relationship should not be viewed on the basis of any single issue.
Burns had struck positive chords saying India has the perfect right and met the criteria for permanent membership of the Security Council like being a large country with significant population, being democratic, giving substantial resources to the UN system, adhering to non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.
He said any decision on the issue of which country the US will back for permanent membership has to be taken by President Bush.
Indian officials contended that it was a "long and complicated process" with numerous hurdles and that New Delhi was pursuing a step-by-step approach hinging on "cautious optimism".
Encouraged by the new momentum in bilateral ties, Burns said these were heading in the right direction. India, he said, is of "increased strategic importance" to the US and that "we are achieving a partnership between our two countries which is truly historic".
Washington has also expressed its keenness for enhanced cooperation with India in agriculture and related areas.
Singh's visit may see the two sides discussing ways of working together on environmental, conservation and wildlife cooperation.
Progress is also anticipated on the important issue of civilian nuclear energy cooperation during the visit. When US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was here in March this year, she had begun a new discussion with the UPA Government on this issue.
Another area of key interest that is expected to figure during the talks is India and the US cooperating together on HIV/AIDS prevention and programmes.
How the two countries can do more to pool in their resources in disaster relief in other parts of the world will also be discussed by the two sides, the officials said.
The US has been appreciative of the speed and decisiveness with which India reached out to help other countries in this region.
A red carpet welcome awaits Singh when he commences his visit from July 18 at the invitation of Bush who is looking forward to hosting him as one of the "most honoured guests".
"We expect this to be one of the most consequential US-India summits in the history of our relationship, going back to the independence of your country," Burns said adding, "There is more on the agenda right now than there has ever been before and the relationship is qualitatively different".