- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

NEW DELHI (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday touted prospects for strengthening U.S.-India relations and prepared to sign at least one agreement designed to give U.S. companies more access to India’s expanding markets.

“We want to broaden and deepen our strategic understanding” and find more common ground with India, Clinton told an audience of several hundred students and faculty members at Delhi University. She said she would announce later Monday a more comprehensive approach to U.S.-India relations, to include talks on energy security, agriculture reform, education and counterterrorism.

Clinton later met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was to hold separate talks with Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna to discuss forging a more productive partnership between two countries still struggling to overcome profound distrust rooted in Cold War rivalries. The Obama administration regards India as an emerging world power and a key to turning the tide against violent Islamic extremism.

“We have to get to the real meat of the matter, and our cooperation will do that for us,” she told her university audience.

TWT RELATED STORY: India tells Clinton: No carbon cuts

Clinton was expected to sign an agreement enabling U.S. companies sell nuclear reactors to India, and possibly another on defense sales.

The nuclear deal would give American companies exclusive rights to sell nuclear power plants at specified locations in India — an opportunity that could be worth $10 billion for U.S. sellers. A second deal, which officials said they hoped would also be ready for signing Monday, is known as an end-use monitoring agreement that would give the U.S. the right to ensure that U.S. arms sold to India are used for their intended purpose and that the technology is not resold or otherwise provided to third countries.

Clinton’s trip, which began with a two-day visit to Mumbai, reflects a push by the Obama administration to keep U.S.-India relations on the improving path they have followed for more than a decade. For example, two-way trade has doubled since 2004.

On Sunday, India stood firm against Western demands that it accept binding limits on carbon emissions even as Clinton expressed optimism about an eventual climate change deal to India’s benefit.

“There is simply no case for the pressure that we — who have among the lowest emissions per capita — face to actually reduce emissions,” India’s minister of environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, told Clinton and her visiting delegation in a meeting.

“And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours,” he added.

U.S. officials had expected the discussions to focus more on cooperation in related areas of energy efficiency, green buildings and clean-burning fuels.

The minister distributed copies of his remarks to reporters in a gesture aimed at underlining India’s tough stance. The comments showed the political sensitivity in India of one of the Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities.

Clinton said Ramesh presented a “fair argument.” But she said India’s case “loses force” because the fast-growing country’s absolute level of carbon emissions — as opposed to the per capita amount — is “going up, and dramatically.”

Later, at an agricultural research site in a farm field outside the capital, Clinton told reporters she is optimistic about getting a climate change deal that will satisfy India.

“This is part of a negotiation,” she said. “It’s part of a give-and-take and it’s multilateral, which makes it even more complex. But until proven otherwise, I’m going to continue to speak out in favor of every country doing its part to deal with the challenge of global climate change.”

In an interview with the TV station NDTV on Sunday, Clinton said she wants to discuss what she called India’s more benign interpretation of Iran’s intentions, particularly regarding Iran’s disputed presidential election and its nuclear program. Clinton was pressed to say whether she is worried that India has a different view of Iran, which the U.S. sees as a supporter of terrorist groups, an obstacle to Mideast peace and a threat to build a nuclear bomb.

“I’m not concerned yet. I want to understand why it is and why it is held,” she said, referring to India’s view.

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