- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 18, 2009

NEW DELHI | Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged India on Friday to join Washington in supporting Pakistan’s fight against terrorism, but New Delhi demanded results before it begins formal peace talks with its rival.

Mrs. Clinton arrived in Mumbai late Friday at the start of a three-day visit designed to cement ties and dispel any doubts about President Obama’s commitment to India’s role as a rising global power.

After her plane landed in India’s financial capital at the height of monsoon season, Indian officials with black umbrellas greeted her as she stepped off the plane and into a steady rain.

Although her trip has a wide agenda, including securing a deal to ensure U.S. arms technology does not leak to third countries, Mrs. Clinton is expected to push for a smoothing of India-Pakistan ties frayed by last year’s Mumbai attacks.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani agreed Thursday to fight terrorism jointly, but Mr. Singh insisted Pakistan must punish those responsible for the Mumbai attacks if it wants formal talks.

Mrs. Clinton is staying at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, the luxury landmark that was one of the primary targets of Islamist gunmen who went on a Nov. 26-29 rampage in Mumbai in which 166 people died.

On Saturday, she will attend a commemoration of the attacks before meeting Indian executives, visiting a group that helps poor women sell handicrafts and joining forces with Bollywood star Aamir Khan to promote education.

Mrs. Clinton, in an opinion piece published in the Times of India newspaper Friday before her arrival, wrote that both India and the United States had “experienced searing terrorist attacks.”

“We both seek a more secure world for our citizens. We should intensify our defense and law enforcement cooperation to that end. And we should encourage Pakistan as that nation confronts the challenge of violent extremism,” she wrote.

Mr. Singh said the agreement with Mr. Gilani had not diluted India’s position that Pakistan must stop militant groups using its territory to carry out attacks on Indian soil as a precondition for resuming peace talks, known as the composite dialogue.

India paused the talks after the Mumbai attacks.

“It only strengthens our stand that we wouldn’t like Pakistan to wait for the resumption of the composite dialogue … but take action against terrorist elements regardless of these processes that may lead to resumption,” Mr. Singh told Parliament Friday.

Mr. Singh was answering an opposition accusation that the agreement with Mr. Gilani was a reversal since it removed the link between the five-year peace talks and fighting terrorism.

“Action on terrorism … cannot await other developments,” Mr. Singh said.

Since the attacks, Washington has sought to cool tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors so it can keep Pakistan’s army focused on fighting Taliban militants on its western border with Afghanistan, and not on its eastern frontier with India.

The two countries have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

That enduring dispute spawned militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for the attack on Mumbai, and others backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy arm as proxies against India.

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