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US vows counterterrorism support for India

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NEW DELHI (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on

Tuesday pledged robust counterterrorism cooperation with India

while assuring Indian officials that the Obama administration won’t

ease pressure on Pakistan to combat extremists or allow the Taliban

to regain power in Afghanistan with a precipitous withdrawal of

American troops.

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While hailing improved U.S.-Indian ties, Clinton also called on New

Delhi to ease trade restrictions keeping American firms out of

India’s massive market and urged the government to quickly resolve

a dispute over investments in the nuclear energy.

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But her meetings with top Indian officials focused largely on

fighting terror, improving ties between nuclear-armed rivals India

and Pakistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Her second visit to India as America’s top diplomat came less than

a week after a triple bombing killed 20 people in India’s financial

capital of Mumbai, the country’s worst terror strike since

Pakistan-based gunmen rampaged through the city in 2008.

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S.M. Krishna, India’s foreign minister, expressed concerns that the

planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan that began this

month could lead to a resurgence in Islamic extremism.

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“It is in the larger interests of the region that it is necessary

for the United States to work very closely with (Afghan) President

(Hamid) Karzai and the government of Afghanistan and thereby create

conditions where terrorists do not take any more advantage in

Afghanistan,” Krishna told a joint news conference after 2 1/2

hours of talks with Clinton.

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Clinton said she had outlined the drawdown strategy and stressed

that the United States will not support Afghan reconciliation with

insurgents unless it is inclusive and protects the rights of

minority groups, religions and women.

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Clinton also assured India of U.S. support in the fight against

terror.

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“We are allies in the fight against violent extremist networks. And

homeland security is a high priority and a source of increasing

partnership,” Clinton said.

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While the U.S. and India have already signed agreements to

cooperate in counterterrorism efforts, “the events in Mumbai have

driven home how important it is that we get results,” she

said.

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Though India has not blamed Pakistan for last week’s attack, it has

accused its neighbor of harboring violent extremist groups

responsible for other attacks in India and of not doing enough to

crack down on those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai

siege.

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For its part, U.S. officials fear Pakistan is not fully committed

to combatting radical plots, such as the Mumbai attacks and the

failed 2010 Times Square bombing in New York.

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“In the aftermath of the attacks of 2008 in Mumbai, we made it very

clear that there was an absolute international responsibility to

cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice. We have made that

equally forcefully clear to Pakistan that it has a special

obligation to do so transparently, fully and urgently,” she said.

“We have made it clear to the Pakistani government that confronting

violent extremists of all sorts is in its interest.”

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India recently resumed peace talks with Pakistan that broke off

following the 2008 Mumbai siege, and the two countries’ foreign

ministers are expected to meet next week.

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The U.S. is eager for the fragile talks to pick up steam, in part

to allow Pakistan to focus its forces on the chaotic Afghan

border.

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“We are encouraged by the dialogue between India and Pakistan,”

Clinton said, calling talks “the most promising approach” to build

more confidence between them.

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During the meeting Tuesday, Clinton and Krishna agreed to

strengthen their countries’ ties in energy, security, education,

the economy, science and promoting stability across the region. The

two countries also signed an agreement promoting closer cooperation

in cybersecurity.

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Once frosty relations between India and the United States have

warmed considerably in recent years as Washington has looked to

India as stable ally in the turbulent South Asia region and its

growing economy as a valuable market for U.S. goods.

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Despite improvements, Clinton said more needed to be done to

fulfill the potential for commercial relations.

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“Each of our countries can do more to reduce barriers, open our

markets, and find new opportunities for economic partnership,”

Clinton said. “Taking these steps is in our mutual interest. We can

improve millions of lives and increase both of our nations’

economic competitiveness.”

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She called for a quick resolution to a dispute over nuclear energy

investments, urging India to ratify by the end of the year the

Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage and to

adapt its liability laws to conform with the treaty.

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The U.S. views India’s new nuclear liability law as too stringent

on nuclear plant suppliers, making it difficult for private U.S.

companies like General Electric and Westinghouse to compete against

state-owned companies in India’s multibillion dollar nuclear

reactor market.

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Boosting other business ties were also on the agenda.

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Many Western officials have looked to India’s rising economy and

its 1.2 billion people as a coveted market to help stimulate growth

in their own troubled economies.

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Clinton praised India’s fight against piracy, and pushed for

greater sales of U.S. arms to India – the world’s largest arms

importer – as a way of deepening security cooperation between the

two nations.

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U.S. officials were annoyed earlier this year when Indian officials

chose two European companies as finalists for an $11 billion order

for 126 fighter jets. However, last month India signed an agreement

to buy 10 Boeing C-17 cargo and troop-carrying aircraft for more

than $4 billion.

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From New Delhi, Clinton on Wednesday will move on to the

southeastern port of Chennai, where she plans to deliver a speech

on the importance of U.S.-Indian relations, the benefits of

enhanced bilateral commercial ties and India’s role in South Asia

and the greater Asia-Pacific region.

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Ravi Nessman can be reached at 

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