Growing political and economic ties between the world's two largest democracies have helped to fuel a more favorable impression of the United States in India in recent years.  India is one of the few countries in the world where the U.S. image has been improving steadily. 

"As two great democracies we are natural partners in many ways. We are at a juncture in our history where we can embark on a partnership between India and the United States, a partnership that can draw both on principles as well as pragmatism," said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  

These words by Prime Minister Singh to the U.S. Congress during his visit to Washington this month epitomize the huge shift in Indian attitudes to the United States in recent years.

In the corridors of power in New Delhi, America is now seen as a friend and ally rather as a superpower that sparked Indian resentment and a neutral stance in the Cold War days. 

The view extends beyond government to India's growing middle class, which has always regarded America as the world's leading land of opportunity, but disliked its foreign policy.

In recent decades, hundreds of thousands of migrating Indians have achieved their dream of prosperity in the United States. In the last three years, Indian students have made up the largest chunk of foreigners heading out to study in American colleges.   

As more and more Indians travel to and from the United States for vacations, to visit sons and daughters, or for business, there are many words of praise for the country.

In fact, a recent 16-country poll by the Pew Research Center in Washington found that Indians have the most favorable image of the United States, more so than the publics in Canada and Britain.  The survey found that 71 percent of Indians had a positive view of America, up from 54 percent three years ago.

A professor of Sociology at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dipankar Gupta, says traditional hostility to America is melting as Washington reaches out to India and builds a stronger political partnership.

"The people in India have always admired America, have wanted to go to America, visit America and be loved by America," he said.  "But America somehow took a hard stand against India, and that is what made India hostile to America, not because of what America is essentially or intrinsically, but because of its foreign relations."

Despite the positive image, some Indians side with many other nations in objecting to what they see as unilateral policies by the United States and want to see greater international cooperation.

Some ordinary Indians here in Delhi still strongly feel that the United States is arrogant and overbearing in its foreign policy.    

"I admire its progressive thinking, but I find it a bully as a nation," said one person.

"As a country I like it, but somewhere they have to draw a balance as to how to interact with the other nations," said another.  

They site the U.S. decision to invade Iraq without a United Nations mandate as just one example.

But as India focuses more firmly on trying to achieve its dream of economic prosperity and big power status, it appears to be more in step with the U.S. than ever before.