Bilateral ties, terrorism, Afghanistan on Menon’s agenda in US (Lead)

March 8th, 2009 - 11:14 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 8 (IANS) How to take the India-US strategic relationship forward will be the focus of Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon’s talks here in New Delhi’s first high-level interaction with Washington since President Barack Obama took over in January.

Menon, who arrived here Sunday, is set to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday besides Deputy Secretary James B. Steinberg, and his counterpart Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns.

He would also have talks at the Pentagon with defence officials, leading lawmakers and think tanks during his four-day visit.

The threat posed by terrorism emanating from Pakistan and progress made in the probe into the November Mumbai terror attack, particularly in the context of action taken by Islamabad, are also expected to come up during the talks.

Aspects related to the India-US civil nuclear deal signed during the last days of former president George W. Bush and the upcoming G20 summit in London, are also expected to figure in the talks.

Besides bilateral issues, Menon is also expected to provide Indian perceptions on how to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan when he meets US special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta were here last month for what was described as a “valuable and unprecedented meeting” as part of an ongoing US policy review.

Holbrooke had invited India, considered a key player in the region, to provide its inputs for the policy review after a fact-finding listening tour of the region that took him to Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi.

President Obama last month decided to send an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, bringing US forces there to 55,000 by this summer.

The surge is part of the Obama administration’s plan to “refocus American resources on the greatest threat to our security - the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

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