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US Official Hails Improved Relations with India - 2003-09-11


A senior U.S. official on a visit to New Delhi says India and the United states have made impressive gains in their relations in recent years.

Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca says the global war against terror launched after the September 11 attacks in New York two years ago has brought India and Washington closer together.

She says there are differences between the two countries over development of New Delhi's nuclear and missile programs, but the two have many common strategic interests as well.

Ms. Rocca was addressing business leaders in the Indian capital. She has been meeting senior Indian officials for discussions on regional and bilateral issues.

She denied reports in the Indian media that she is in New Delhi to urge the Indian government to send troops to Iraq.

Washington has been eager to obtain New Delhi's help with peacekeeping in Iraq. Indian officials say that earlier this week, President Bush called Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to discuss the security situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In July, India turned down a U.S. request for troops, however, saying it could send its soldiers to Iraq only under an explicit U.N. mandate.

The U.N. Security Council is debating a U.S. proposed draft resolution aimed at getting more peacekeeping troops from other countries into Iraq.

Ms. Rocca says New Delhi can play a valuable role in Iraq's reconstruction, and India's help could be advantageous for all sides.

New Delhi has been making efforts to build closer relations with Washington since the end of the Cold War. Political analysts say Washington also sees India as a rising regional power in Asia, with an expanding economy and democratic values that it shares with the United States.

But Washington has to balance its friendship between sometimes-bitter rivals India and Pakistan.

Ms. Rocca says the U.S.-Pakistan relationship can serve Indian interests as well, and hoped that the peace process begun in April between the two South Asian neighbors would be more than a "temporary d├ętente."