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Pakistan on Agenda of US-India Talks

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A high ranking American envoy is in New Delhi for talks with top Indian officials. The visit comes at a time when the United States is urging India to restart peace talks with Pakistan.

The U.S. undersecretary for political affairs is on a four-day stop here which includes rounds of talks with top Indian government officials.

The visit of William Burns marks the first formal talks between the Obama administration and the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It comes ahead of an expected official visit next month by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The U.S. undersecretary, in brief remarks to reporters, said his trip to India comes at a time of "extraordinary promise" for the relationship between Washington and New Delhi. Burns said President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton sent him here with the message India is a top foreign policy priority for the United States and a crucial global partner for the 21st century.

After his meetings with India's Foreign and Home Affairs ministers, Burns deemed those discussions "excellent."

"I look forward to another productive day of meetings tomorrow as we chart together an ambitious bilateral agenda for the next phase in the strategic partnership between our two countries," he said.

U.S. and Indian government sources say the discussions are touching upon a number of topics, including the deepening of defense, economic and academic ties. The two countries, since last November's attack on Mumbai, have been increasing cooperation on fighting terrorism.

Also on the agenda - the stalled peace talks involving India and Pakistan. The United States is urging the two nuclear-armed neighbors to return to the table and attempt to settle their long-standing territorial dispute over the Kashmir region.

Talks have not been held since the Mumbai attack, in which more than 160 people died. India says the assault was carried out by heavily armed Pakistani militants and there is evidence of involvement of some Pakistani "state elements".

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a policy speech Tuesday, said his government was willing to meet Pakistan "more than half way." But New Delhi wants to see Islamabad bring to justice those responsible for planning the Mumbai attack.

The relationship between the United States and India has gradually warmed in recent years. A major breakthrough was a civil nuclear deal achieved during Prime Minister Singh's first administration and the second term of President George W. Bush.

The deal was opposed by India's left. But the Congress Party, the largest in the current government, is no longer dependent on the outside support of Communists to stay in power. That means there is now little, if any, political risk from responding to Washington's calls for even closer ties.  

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