April 11, 2005 19:54 IST
US President George Bush [Images] is likely to visit India later this year or early next year, a US State Department official said in Kolkata on Monday.
"I am told that the president expects to visit India as soon as he can. It can be either later this year or early next year," Stephen Blake, Director of the State Department's South Asia Bureau Office of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka [Images], Maldives
and Bhutan, told newsmen here.
Stating that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] will visit the United States in July this year, he said External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh is scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] on April 15.
"All this points to the fact that both the countries are coming closer to each other," Blake said.
Referring to a newspaper report about plans of an Indo-US 'Red Flag' military exercise in Las Vegas [Images], Blake said if the report was true, it meant that the US looked at India as a trusted strategic partner.
'"It is the most realistic exercise that fighter planes are capable of. You really have to be a close ally of the US to be able to make it to the Red Flag," he said.
As part of plans to strengthen the good relations between the two countries, an Indo-US joint forum on science and technology was going to be set up soon to forge research partnerships, he said.
In reply to a question, Blake said that research was on in his country for developing alternative fuels in the wake of soaring oil prices in the international market which at present stood at $ 50 to the barrel.
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