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Hillary Clinton for deepening strategic ties with India

delhi Updated: Jul 19, 2009 09:32 IST
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday expressed a desire to strengthen strategic ties with India as she began a five-day trip by pressing Pakistan to take action against terrorists who attacked Mumbai, including the luxury hotel where she is staying.

Dressed in an elegant red business suit, Clinton captivated innumerable hearts as she spent a hectic day meeting corporate leaders, victims of the November 2008 terror attack, women activists, journalists besides teachers and students of a leading college.

Clinton, who arrived overnight amid rains, declared that the US was "entering (an era of) a new and even more promising relations with India" and that her country wanted to "broaden and deepen our relationship".

She said she was optimistic about concluding a defence pact to enable Washington to monitor the end use of arms and sensitive technologies sold to India to ensure that they are not diverted to other countries.

"We are working very hard to finalise a number of agreements. I am optimistic we will get such agreements resolved and announced," she said, when asked about the status of the arms 'end-user monitoring' pact.

The end-user verification agreement is likely to be signed between the two sides after Clinton meets External Affairs Minister SM Krishna in New Delhi on Monday.

A technology safeguards agreement on space launches and another pact on deepening educational ties are also expected to be signed during Clinton's visit. India is likely to announce two sites for US nuclear reactors.

On her fourth visit to India, Clinton began the day by paying homage to the over 170 people killed and those wounded when terrorists from Pakistan attacked several landmarks in Mumbai last year. One of them was the Taj Palace and Tower Hotel where Clinton is now a guest.

She met some of the survivors of the savagery at the Taj hotel and then described terrorism as "ruthless and nihilistic". The Taj was badly damaged in the firefight between the terrorists and commandos.

She was given a tour of the now renovated Taj hotel by Karimbir Kang, its general manager whose wife and two children were among those slain by the terrorists who went from room to room shooting and hurling grenades.

She said she was deeply touched to meet the staff of the Taj and the nearby Oberoi-Trident Hotel who faced the brunt of the terrorists, nine of whom were killed by commandos after about 60 hours. One was captured.

Referring to Friday's bombings in Jakarta, Clinton said it was a "painful reminder (that terrorism) is global, it is ruthless, it is nihilistic, and it must be stopped".

Responding to a question that Pakistan was not doing enough against terrorists pitted against India, Clinton underlined that Islamabad needed to "root out" such outfits.

"We believe they have to be rooted out, they must be defeated, they must be dismantled. We say that clearly, we will continue to do so."

She said to Times Now TV: "It is imperative for Pakistan to go after all terrorist groups. Even if they were focussed elsewhere, they are now part of a common criminal syndicate."

She said the US had no role to play in a resolution of the decades-old India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir and denied her country was forcing the two countries to go for negotiations.

Clinton met select Indian business leaders on issues like energy security, agriculture, global financial crisis and climate change. She said she had "exciting and fruitful" discussions.

The meeting was organised by Tata group chairman Ratan Naval Tata. Also present were Reliance group's Mukesh Ambani, ICICI Bank's Chanda Kochhar, Nicholas Piramal's Swati Piramal, Godrej group's Adi Godrej and Mahindra and Mahindra's Anand Mahindra.

"We have entered into new and promising era of cooperation between our two countries," said Clinton during a brief interaction with the media later.

On climate change, she said there was no contradiction between poverty eradication and moving towards a low-carbon economy. "We acknowledge we've made mistakes and we, with other developed countries, are responsible" for global warming.

"We are hoping that a great country like India will not make the same mistakes."

After lunch, Clinton renewed her association with the artisans of the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), a group she first came into contact with 14 years ago when she was America's first lady.

She also spent an hour with Bollywood icon Aamir Khan at the St. Xavier's College discussing with students and teachers an issue close to her heart -- spreading education.

Clinton will on Sunday fly to New Delhi where she will meet Indian leaders for talks on issues including economic growth, climate change, education, health care, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.