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Clinton Aims to Boost Strategic Relationship During India Visit

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mumbai at the start of a visit aimed at deepening an emerging strategic partnership between the United States and India. Clinton is urging India to join Washington in supporting Pakistan's efforts against terrorism.

Clinton arrived late Friday in a heavy rain at the Taj Palace Hotel on Mumbai's ocean front, which was one of the targets of Pakistan-based terrorists who killed 166 people in a coordinated series of attacks in the Indian business capital last November.

The Secretary joins in a ceremony of remembrance Saturday for victims of those attacks. In an opinion piece published in the Times of India newspaper she said the United States and India - which have both experienced searing terrorist attacks - should intensify anti-terrorism cooperation, and encourage Pakistan as it confronts the challenge of violent extremism.

The Obama administration has encouraged efforts at dialogue between the two South Asian powers, capped by the meeting this week in Egypt between Indian Prime Minister Manhoman Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Clinton is not visiting Pakistan on this trip to the region and administration officials say her India visit - spanning four days - is intended to underscore a growing strategic relationship spawned by the two countries' landmark nuclear cooperation accord in 2005.

Under the agreement, given final approved by the U.S. Congress last year, India agreed to open non-military nuclear sites to international inspections, and the United States dropped non-proliferation curbs on India - opening the way for Indian purchases of U.S. nuclear technology and hardware.

Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Robert Blake, traveling with the Secretary in India, says the Clinton visit is likely to produce follow-on agreements including one designating two sites in India for U.S. designed nuclear power plants.

Blake says the Obama administration held off on engaging India in a major way until the completion of elections in May that strengthened the hold on power by Prime Minister Singh's ruling Congress party.

"We believe that the strong showing of the Congress Party, Prime Minister Singh's return to office and then President Obama's very strong support for strengthening ties with India really opened the way for a new and invigorated partnership with India," Blake said. "The President and Secretary Clinton both see India as a really important partner for us, not only in addressing bilateral issues, but also in working with us to shape the world of the 21st century."

Clinton has a series of theme events in Mumbai highlighting bilateral cooperation in such areas as business, education, and women's empowerment.

She goes on to the capital New Delhi where she will have meetings Monday with Prime Minister Singh, Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna and other political figures including opposition BJP party leader Lal Krishna Advani.

Later in the week, the Secretary goes on to Bangkok for talks with Thai leaders and joins in an international dialogue in the Thai resort of Phuket with foreign ministers of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian nations.

North Korea, the political situation in Burma, and Friday's suicide bomb attacks on two hotels in Jakarta are expected to be key issues at the ASEAN meetings.

In a written statement, Secretary Clinton condemned the Jakarta attacks, which she said reflect the viciousness of violent extremists, and said the United States stands ready to assist the Indonesian government if asked to do so.