India confident ties will improve under Obama adminstration (Lead)

March 12th, 2009 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 12 (IANS) India is confident its relationship with the US would move forward rapidly to the next level under President Barack Obama, taking off from where his predecessor George W. Bush left.

“I leave confident that we will be able to move forward with the new US administration,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said at a press conference here Wednesday after the first high-level dialogue with the new administration.

In three days of hectic diplomacy, the senior Indian official met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama’s National Security Adviser General James Jones and other senior officials besides leading lawmakers and representatives of Washington think tanks.

“In all meetings, both with the government and the Congress, I found a strong sense of satisfaction at the transformed relationship and very strong support for taking it to the next level,” Menon said.

Noting that India-US relations have been undergoing a transformation since the 1990s, Menon said he was overall satisfied that they had more than met the objectives the two sides had set.

Refuting suggestions that India was not as high a priority for the Obama administration as it was with the previous Bush team, he said there is “no question of anyone ignoring India, for obviously both sides are satisfied so much has been done”.

Both sides “want to do much more, moving forward rapidly”, he said, describing the relationship as a “work in progress”.

With the nuclear deal done there are new things to do, he said, noting the two countries’ intense engagement from agriculture to defence with 28 separate dialogues going on in every sector, particularly areas which are important for the development of India.

Menon said counter terrorism cooperation was discussed in considerable detail in his interactions with US officials as they talked about the situation in the neighbourhood.

Describing terrorism as a problem that the international community needs to address together, Menon said action taken against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) even after it was declared a terrorist outfit by the UN in 2002 “was clearly insufficient otherwise Mumbai would not have happened”.

From India’s point of view Pakistan needs to do two things, bring perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice and take credible action against terrorist organisations.

New Delhi had “seen beginning of some steps” from Islamabad regarding investigation of the Mumbai attacks, Menon said.

“It’s a positive development. But there is much more to be done,” he said asking Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism.

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