Obama Visit Will be 'Defining Moment' in Ties: US

By Arun Kumar

New York, Sep 28 (IANS) The United States says President Barack Obama's visit to India in November will be a "defining moment" in the history of their ties as Washington has an important stake in India's emergence as a global power.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna "agreed that the president's visit will be a defining moment in the history of our bilateral relations," a senior US official said Monday after a meeting here between the two leaders.

Briefing reporters by conference call on the 30-minute Clinton-Krishna meeting to lay the groundwork for Obama's India visit, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Robert Blake said the president and "all our senior American leaders have emphasised the important stake in India's emergence as a global power."

He recalled that Obama had made Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the first state visitor of his administration last November and the two sides had established a strategic dialogue. "So the next step is really for the President to make this reciprocal visit."

"We expect this to be a very momentous and consequential visit that will emphasise the importance of India, our common values and our desire to work ever more closely with this important friend of ours."

Asked about the issue of permanent UN Security Council membership of India in the context of reforms of the world body's top decision making body, Blake said that had not come up in the Krishna-Clinton meeting Monday.

"But that's something that's under discussion as we prepare for President Obama's visit," he said. "I don't have anything to report at this stage. But again this is under discussion."

Blake said Clinton and Krishna discussed Afghanistan, floods in Pakistan, climate change talks, US-Indian nuclear co-operation and sanctions on Iran.

Thanking India for the "extensive development assistance India has given to Afghanistan," Clinton expressed the US desire to work closely in that important country."

US, she told Krishna, was encouraged by the impact of sanctions on Iran and "stressed the need for the international community to remain united in encouraging Iran to come back to the negotiating table."

Clinton, who flew back to Washington Monday, also told Krishna that she looked forward to meeting Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony Tuesday and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon later this week.

Blake said Under Secretary of State Bill Burns and he himself would probably go to India in October to "try to clean up any last minute issues that might still exist and make sure that everything is ready for the president's visit."

Meanwhile, in Washington, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates hosted a dinner for Antony before they sit down for substantive discussions on expanding defence cooperation Tuesday. Antony is also slated to meet Clinton and US National Security Advisor Gen James Jones Tuesday.


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