Menon begins dialogue with Obama team (Lead)

March 9th, 2009 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 9 (IANS) Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon Monday plunged into three days of hectic diplomacy focusing on taking the India-US strategic relationship forward as the two nations began their first high-level interaction since Barack Obama became president in January.

Menon, who arrived here Sunday, is set to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the afternoon after a series of meetings with Deputy Secretary James B. Steinberg, and his counterpart Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns.

Besides bilateral issues, Menon is also expected to provide Indian perceptions on how to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan when he meets Clinton and 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 when he visited India after a fact-finding listening tour of the region that took him to Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi.

On the bilateral front, the two sides will also review progress on the investigation of the attacks in Mumbai last November and Pakistan’s cooperation on this front. The threat posed by terrorism emanating from Pakistan in general too will be touched upon.

Aspects related to the India-US civil nuclear deal signed during the last days of former president George W. Bush and the upcoming G-20 summit in London are also expected to figure in the talks.

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

President Barack 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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