Hillary Clinton Begins Pivotal India Trip

Jul 18, 2011, 12:43 by R.E. Christian

A busy schedule awaited U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday as she began her three-day India trip, leading a 25-member delegation.

The visit comes against the backdrop of last Wednesday's deadly explosions that killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens in Mumbai, an incident strongly condemned by both Clinton and U.S. President Barack Obama. Both Clinton and Obama are aware of the November 2008 terror attack in the same city in which about 170 died and which India says was masterminded by terror groups based in Pakistan.

Clinton comes to India primarily for the second round of the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, but the visit would cover several other issues as relations between the two sides continue to strengthen.

"It is no exaggeration to say that the relationship has got transformed in recent years with both sides taking and having taken a series of new initiatives to take the relationship to a qualitatively new level," said Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash ahead of Clinton's arrival.

India and the United States would focus on further strengthening "engagement in political, economic, strategic and security spheres, with greater priority to areas like economy, energy, environment, education and security," he said.

In May, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited New Delhi to discuss various issues relating to counter-terrorism.

Clinton refused to cancel her India trip because of the Mumbai blasts, saying standing with India "is more important than ever."

Those accompanying Clinton on the current trip would include National Intelligence Director James Clapper, Assistant to the President on Science and Technology John Holdren, Homeland Security Department Deputy Secretary Jane Lute, and a number of other senior officials from various U.S. departments.

Prakash said "regular high-level interactions and cooperation has resulted in increasing mutual understanding and greater convergence on a wide range of international issues."

Source: UPI