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Clinton takes on doubts on India-US partnership

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed on Thursday to confront doubts over the US-India partnership, saying the two giant democracies stand at a pivotal moment in their relations.

world Updated: Jun 03, 2010 23:20 IST

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed on Thursday to confront doubts over the US-India partnership, saying the two giant democracies stand at a pivotal moment in their relations.

Clinton, opening a meeting of big teams of US and Indian officials, said fast-growing trade ties and deepening strategic cooperation marked a good start, but that both countries had to do more to address lingering misgivings.

"We must not only build on areas of agreement, but frankly address doubts that remain on both sides," Clinton said.

"With this dialogue, and the level of confidence that we have established between ourselves, we will confront these concerns directly and candidly," she said, calling this a personal priority.

Clinton cited Indian fears that the United States may sacrifice Indian interests as it seeks to bolster Pakistan in the face of Islamic militancy in the region and pursues the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

And she said some in the United States had concerns that India "has not fully embraced its role in regional and global affairs or will not make the economic reforms needed to foster additional progress."

Clinton's realistic tone at the start of the "strategic dialogue" meeting reflected widespread feelings on both sides that -- despite repeated vows of cooperation -- the US-India partnership has not yet lived up to its potential.

While US President Barack Obama welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his first official state visitor and plans his own return trip to India later this year, nagging issues continue to undercut ties.

ISLAMIST THREATS
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna underscored India's concerns over arch-rival Pakistan, which New Delhi believes is not taking a tough enough stance on Islamist extremist groups such as the one that attacked Mumbai in 2008 killing 166 people.

"Though the epicenter of this threat lies in India's neighborhood, it reaches far and wide all across the world as we have seen time and again, and most recently a few weeks back in Times Square," he said, noting another failed bomb attack by a man suspected of links to Pakistan-based groups.

Krishna also said it was "the logical next step" for the United States to provide India with access to David Headley, a Chicago man who pleaded guilty of working with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba to plan the Mumbai strike.

The United States has thus far not acted on India's repeated requests for access to Headley.

Clinton endorsed India's "positive and significant" role in Afghanistan -- which worries Pakistan -- and said the growing US-India defense trade demonstrated Washington's commitment to help modernize India's military.

Krishna, who earlier noted that India is moving to finalize a delayed nuclear liability bill to allow entry of US atomic energy companies into the Indian market, said the United States should respond by loosening controls on many
high-tech exports to India.

"These controls are not only anomalous, but also a hindrance to furthering trade and investment in these particularly significant sectors of our economies," he said.