‘Obama team keen to ramp up cooperation with India’ (Lead)

March 11th, 2009 - 10:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 11 (IANS) The Obama administration is keen to “ramp up its cooperation” with India on a host of issues ranging from Afghanistan to climate change and from counter-terrorism to nuclear energy, taking off from where the Bush team left off.

The nitty gritty of the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal and other bilateral issues were discussed when Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon Tuesday met with his counterpart Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns, and continued the first major dialogue between the two countries since President Barack Obama took office.

The session with the State Department team led by Burns followed a “very, very good, a very warm meeting” Monday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Menon went into talks at the Pentagon with defence officials Wednesday after meeting leading lawmakers and representatives of Washington think tanks Tuesday.

The Indian side still would not say how the dialogue was going, but State Department spokesman Robert Wood said of the Clinton-Menon meeting: “It was a very, very good meeting, a very warm meeting.”

Clinton, he said, made the point to Menon “that we really want to ramp up our cooperation in a number of areas, whether that be climate change, whether it be counter-terrorism”.

“There are just a whole host of issues where the United States and India can work together, have been working together, and that, you know, some of these issues are going to require not just US and Indian cooperation, but cooperation of others,” he said.

“The Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, its current status and the way forward too was discussed during the meeting,” Wood said.

“I think there was a bit of a discussion on the additional protocol that was just worked out with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency),” he added but gave no other details.

“They talked a bit about Afghanistan and what needs to be done,” Wood said, adding that Clinton “was very interested” in hearing Menon’s views “on this subject as well as a host of others”. But “I don’t think it was a question of asking India to do more.”

Asked what the US wants India to do in Afghanistan, the spokesman said: “It wasn’t so much that we were asking India to do anything specifically”, but Clinton wanted to hear Menon’s views “on the best way forward in Afghanistan from the Indian point of view”.

“And that was, in essence, the basis of the discussion,” he added.

On climate change, Clinton and Menon talked in general about cooperation. Without getting “into a lot of specifics, they did talk in general about the importance of working together to try to deal with the issue of climate change, global warming.”

The Sri Lanka issue was also discussed “just in general”.

Menon Tuesday also met influential lawmakers on the Capitol. They included Jim McDermott, founder and co-chair of Congressional India and Indian-Americans Caucus, Howard L. Berman, Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Richard G. Lugar, top Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Gary Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

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