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Clinton Headed to India for Talks on Boosting Strategic Partnership



U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in India Friday for a four-day visit. India hopes the visit will demonstrate that the United States remains committed to building on a strategic partnership developed between the two countries under the previous Bush administration. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left Washington for India late Thursday on a trip aimed at advancing an emerging U.S.-Indian strategic partnership that began in 2005 with a nuclear cooperation accord.

Clinton arrives Friday in India's financial hub, Mumbai, where she will attend a memorial service for 166 people killed in last year's terrorist attack in the city. On Sunday, she heads to New Delhi for talks with senior Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton will visit India's financial hub Mumbai before heading to New Delhi on Sunday where she will hold talks with senior Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

She comes at a time when relations between the two countries have leaped forward. The foundations for the India-U.S. strategic partnership were laid during the previous Bush administration, which lifted a three-decade long ban on sale of civil nuclear technology to New Delhi, although India is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Bharat Karnad, a security expert at New Delhi's Center for Policy Research says India is hoping that the Clinton visit will demonstrate that the Obama administration also intends to strengthen and deepen ties between the two countries.

"This is more of an exploratory trip for both sides," Karnad said. "Both sides are going to sound each other out, see where there is give, where can there be a bit more take, and serious talks and negotiations on a whole range of issues is then going to follow."

In recent months, policy makers and analysts in New Delhi have voiced concerns on several counts. Some worry that the Obama administration's focus on fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan could take some attention away from India.

There are also fears that the Obama administration intends to put more pressure on India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which New Delhi has long resisted.

Bharat Karnad says New Delhi will be seeking reassurance, rather than any new initiatives on such issues, during Clinton's visit.

"They are I think a bit apprehensive….in particular the Obama administration's emphasis on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and trying to get India generally into the non proliferation treaty net," Karnad said. "These are concerns that I think have led to a little bit of worry on the part of Indian policymakers, and [they will want] to find out if U.S. policy remains the same, or if it is not the same, how much it departs from what it was in the time of President George W. Bush."

During the visit, the two sides are expected to finalize two agreements. India is expected to announce that it has set aside two sites for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants, clearing the way for American businesses to get nearly $10 billion in business. The two countries are also scheduled to sign an agreement to ensure that U.S. arms technology sold to India is not leaked to third countries.

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