Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Wednesday for greater counterterrorism cooperation between the United States, India and Pakistan and said she would visit India next month as the Obama administration moves to strengthen ties with New Delhi.
Speaking to the US India Business Council, Clinton welcomed this week's meeting in Russia of the leaders of India and Pakistan. It was the first meeting between representatives of the two countries since last November's terrorist attacks in Mumbai that inflamed tensions between the nuclear armed rivals. Clinton said she hoped the dialogue, along with Pakistan's recent moves to target extremists, would boost security in South Asia and around the world.
She called the Mumbai attacks, which India has blamed on Pakistani extremists, "a reminder that terrorism represents a common threat to our nations and our people and we must meet it with a common strategy."
"As part of that strategy, we should expand our broader security relationship and increase cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence sharing," Clinton said.
She said the Obama administration was pleased by Tuesday's meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President President Asif Ali Zardari but would allow the talks to run their own course.
"We welcome a dialogue between them," Clinton said. "The pace, scope and character of that dialogue is something that Indian and Pakistani leaders will decide on their own terms and in their own time."
"But," she added, "as Pakistan now works to take on the challenge of of terrorism in its own country, I am confident that India, as well as the United States, will support those efforts." A day after meeting Zardari in Russia, Singh said Wednesday that India is again ready to talk peace with Pakistan following a six-month freeze in the wake of the three-day siege in Mumbai that killed 166 people.
If Pakistan shows "courage, determination and statesmanship to take the high road to peace, India will meet it more than half the way," Singh said.
But he also cautioned that relations between the neighbors remain "under considerable stress" and progress would be slow with each step forward dependent on Islamabad's willingness to take on anti-India militants.
A spokesman for Zardari said Tuesday's meeting was "an important first step towards reopening formal dialogue."
India has accused a Pakistan-based militant group of sending the teams of gunmen that attacked Mumbai and Pakistani officials have acknowledged the November attacks were partly plotted on their soil. In her remarks, Clinton said global and regional security would be one of several main hubs on which the Obama administration would work with India to improve relations.
She said she would visit New Delhi in July to build on recent improvements in US-Indian cooperation on civilian nuclear energy, work on developing clean energy technology and perhaps begin negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement.