- The Washington Times - Friday, June 4, 2010

India’s foreign minister S.M. Krishna says he is convinced of the Obama administration’s commitment to its relationship with India.

In a brief conversation with The Washington Times on Friday, Mr. Krishna said there had been “so many gestures on the part of the U.S.” to put to rest concern that the U.S. has been negligent toward India and distracted by foreign policy challenges with Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.

President Obama took the unusual step of attending a State Department reception in honor of Mr. Krishna on Thursday. U.S. officials said the gesture was intended to underscore the president’s commitment to the U.S.-India relationship.

Security and counterterrorism were on top of the agenda of Mr. Krishna’s “strategic dialogue” with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday.

Mr. Krishna said the U.S. and India are now on the same page with regard to eliminating the terrorist threat emanating from Pakistan.

“The U.S., like India, has been a victim of terror” traced to groups based in Pakistan, Mr. Krishna said.

India and Pakistan have been trying to restart a peace process that was derailed by the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which the U.S. and India blame on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based terrorist group.

Mr. Krishna will travel to Islamabad in July to meet with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a bid to bridge what the Indian official described as a “trust deficit” between India and Pakistan.

“This visit of mine to Islamabad will be in order to address that trust deficit and that trust deficit can be reduced or eliminated only when we keep talking to each other … when we keep meeting each other and through high-level visits between the two countries,” Mr. Krishna said, speaking to reporters at the end of his visit to Washington.

He said he hoped Pakistan would find India’s commitment to the peace process satisfactory.

While it has been engaged with India and Pakistan, the U.S. has been reluctant to insert itself into the rift between the two nuclear-armed, South Asian neighbors, who have waged three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

India has been averse to third-party mediation in its relationship with Pakistan.

Mr. Krishna said there are “friendly countries,” such as the U.S., who would like a cordial relationship between India and Pakistan. Their views, he added, are understood and respected.

He reiterated Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s commitment to the peace process and said he hopes “Pakistan will not find wanting in India’s efforts to reach out.”

“[Mr. Singh] has always been saying you tackle those who are responsible for the Mumbai attacks and I am willing to go more than half the way to meet you,” Mr. Krishna said.

The minister said “things are not exactly going as per our estimates, but nonetheless we cannot give up, we’ll have to keep engaging Pakistan. We’ll have to keep talking to them.”

India has been irked by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s recent decision not to put LeT founder Hafiz Mohammed Saeed behind bars in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

Mr. Krishna said Mrs. Clinton was quite aware of India’s various concerns with respect to Pakistan.

“The message that I get from the U.S. administration is that they are aware of India’s concerns and they are not do anything which will adversely affects India’s interest,” he said.

In addition, Mr. Krishna, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Meera Shankar, India’s ambassador to the U.S., said India has been assured access to David Coleman Headley, the Pakistani-American who has admitted to helping LeT plot the Mumbai attacks. An Indian team of investigators is in the U.S. to question Headley.

Mr. Krishna said there is “overwhelming evidence” that Headley was one of the key conspirators in the Mumbai attacks. Headley has admitted in a plea agreement to scouting targets in India for LeT.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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