India a major foreign policy priority: US (Lead)

June 10th, 2009 - 8:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New Delhi, June 10 (IANS) Describing India as “a major foreign policy priority and a crucial global partner”, a senior US diplomat Wednesday underlined an “ambitious agenda for the next phase of strategic partnership” between the two countries that were transformed by the landmark nuclear deal last year.
“President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have sent me with one message that India is a major foreign policy priority for the US. And India is a global partner of the US,” US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns told reporters here.

“I am here to chart an ambitious bilateral agenda together for the next phase of strategic partnership,” said Burns, the first senior US official to visit New Delhi for formal talks during the second term of the Manmohan Singh government.

Burns, who began his four-day India visit Wednesday, called on External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Home Minister P. Chidambaram. He also met Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and discussed with him a host of bilateral issues, including defence and economic ties and issues relating to nuclear trade.

The talks focused on firming up a comprehensive agenda for the forthcoming visit of Clinton to India next month. The two sides also discussed regional and global issues like the situation in the volatile Afghanistan and Pakistan region and non-proliferation.

The Nov 26 Mumbai terrorist attacks, in which six American nationals were among the over 170 killed, also figured prominently in discussions, reliable sources said.

India conveyed its concerns over Pakistan’s “inaction” against the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage and cited the release of Jamaat-ud-Daawa (JuD) Hafiz Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai attack, by a Pakistan court last week to underscore Islamabad’s lack of sincerity in addressing India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism, the sources said.

The two sides also discussed the possibility of signing an “end-use verification agreement” for all military purchases made by India from the US, a key step that is expected to give a big push to the US defence sales to India.

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