Pakistan needs to take steps that India, US asking: Hillary (Roundup)

May 7th, 2012 - 8:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, May 7 (IANS) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the second day of her visit to this city to “explore the economic potential of east India”, said Pakistan needed to take “steps which India and US have been repeatedly” asking and emphasised that “we want all those involved in the attack be brought to justice.”

Saying that India-US strategic interests are “increasingly aligned”, Clinton, who arrived here Sunday from Dhaka and before that Beijing, Monday made a strong pitch for further opening up the Indian economy, specially opening up the market to multi-brand retail and also raised the sticky issue of India’s imports of Iranian oil.

During an interactive programme with students and others at the La Martinere School for Girls, Clinton reiterated that all those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack should be brought to justice and accused Pakistan of not taking “steps which India and US have been repeatedly” requesting in this regard.

“You have to go after those who are trying to kill you. We have announced a $10 million bounty on the Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed (founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group). We want all those involved in the attack be brought to justice,” she said.

Clinton met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but did not raise the issue of Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail directly with her or of the Teesta water accord with Bangladesh, both of which Banerjee was opposing ideologically.

However, she raised the issue obliquely during an interaction at Kolkata’s La Martinere School. Clinton told the interactive session that opening up of the Indian economy and allowance of FDI in multibrand retail would raise the standard of living in India.

“I come with certainly a belief that India can compete with anybody, anywhere. And the more open India becomes over time, the greater is the rise in the standard of living and (the more) the opportunity for the broader number of people,” Clinton said.

“There are a lot of benefits that may not be immediately perceived… But I also understand politics. And I understand how lots of these decisions are difficult,” she said.

She also said the US wants “greater debate” on the issue of opening multi-brand retail to foreign investment and civil nuclear cooperation.

On imports of oil from Iran, that supplies about 12 percent of India’s petroleum needs, Clinton clearly stated the US position that “countries like India were being pressurised to reduce their oil imports from Iran to make Tehran change its nuclear policy”.

However, she tried to couch it by stating : “We think it is part of India’s role in the international community. It is not just that the US is asking and doing, it’s the international community asking and doing.”

The US and other global powers believe Iran’s nuclear programme is weapons oriented, which Tehran has denied.

On India-US ties, Clinton said that the relationship between “our two democracies is going to define the kind of future we have”.

“Increasingly also, our strategic interests are aligned. India is taking on more responsibilities which is good news,” she said. “The heart of India-US relations is the people-to-people relationships.”

Ahead of her meeting with Banerjee, the state’s first woman chief minister, Clinton struck a warm chord saying she knew how difficult it is for women to be elected anywhere. “When I meet a woman who has broken through those barriers, we share a common bond of having gone through the fire of electoral politics.”

During her meeting with Banerjee, Clinton assured her of American investment in Bengal, by considering it as a “partner state”.

Banerjee said that issues like Teesta water sharing with Bangladesh and FDI in multi-brand retail were “never raised” in the talks.

Replying to a question on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act passed by parliament last August, Clinton said: “We have made it clear to the government that under the legislation that was passed, it would be difficult for US companies to participate.”

Clinton also lauded the economic potential and geopolitical significance of eastern India.

“The economic potential of east India is so great…but also its geopolitical significance is being increasingly recognised. US wants to be partner with the entire country. This is my way of demonstrating our commitment to this part of the country,” Clinton said.

She said India’s Look East policy was “central” to the growth of the entire Asia-Pacific region.

On Myanmar, which has taken a major step towards democratic reforms, she said: “India stands in a strong position to help the people of Burma as they navigate their way through economic and political reforms.”

Clinton lauded the “incredible contribution” of Indian Americans in her country and said the people to people relationship was at the heart of the ties between the two countries.

She arrived in New Delhi in the evening for talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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