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Clinton Denies Pressuring India on Pakistan Relations

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday the United States is not pressing India to improve relations with Pakistan in the absence of accountability by Pakistan for anti-Indian acts of terrorism.

Clinton, in Mumbai on her first India visit as secretary, paid tribute Saturday to victims of terrorist attacks in the Indian financial capital last November attributed to Pakistan-based extremists.

The Obama administration has strongly supported recent efforts at India-Pakistan reconciliation underscored by the meeting of the two countries' prime ministers this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

But at a news conference on her first full day in India, Clinton sought to allay Indian concerns that the United States is pressuring India into peace moves toward its neighbor without Pakistani accountability for the Mumbai attacks.

Pressed by Indian reporters on the issue, Clinton said she believes there has been a much greater effort and commitment by Pakistan in the last six months to deal with home-grown terrorism, and suggested there may be action in the next few days to bring Pakistani extremists wanted in the Mumbai attacks to justice.

But she said Indian efforts at better relations with its neighbor and long-time rival Pakistan are solely an Indian government decision and not the result of American political pressure.

Clinton said, "Clearly any decision made between the governments of India and Pakistan to begin talking together, to explore the very difficult issues between them, is up to those governments. And I think that the United States, as you know, is very supportive of steps that the governments take. But we are not in any way involved in or promoting any particular position. We respect the sovereignty of these decisions that lie in the hands of the Indian government."

Clinton began her day in Mumbai by attending a commemorative event for victims of the November 2008 attacks at the Taj Palace hotel, one of the targets of the terrorist operation and where the secretary and her entourage are staying while in the coastal city.

The secretary met with 13 staff members of two hotels hit by the Pakistan-based extremists including the manager of the Oberoi hotel, whose wife and two children were killed.

Clinton signed a memorial book kept at the Taj Palace, which was heavily damaged in the attack but is now fully restored, saying Americans affected by the September 2001 terror strikes in the United States share a solidarity with the city of Mumbai and the Indian nation.

She said it is up to all nations and people who seek peace and progress to work together and rid the world of the hatred and extremism that produces such nihilistic violence.

At the ensuing press event, the secretary said Friday's suicide bomb attacks on two hotels in Jakarta are a painful reminder that the threat is still very real and said the United States will work with India, and Indonesia and other countries to defeat violent extremists.