Hillary Clinton begins key India talks

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has held talks with Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna at the start of a visit aimed at strengthening political and economic relations. Mrs Clinton’s visit comes nearly a week after a series of blasts in the city of Mumbai, which killed 19 people. After meeting Indian leaders, she will travel to the southern city of Chennai, a hub for US investment. The three-day visit is her second as secretary of state.

It follows President Barack Obama’s visit to India last November. Ms Clinton, who arrived in the capital, Delhi, late on Monday, met with Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon for talks on Tuesday morning. After talks with Mr Krishna, she is expected to meet PM Manmohan Singh. Ms Clinton’s talks with Indian leaders are being described as new round of “strategic dialogue” between the two countries. Correspondents say Mrs Clinton’s visit will seek to expand cooperation between the two countries – from trade and educational exchanges to anti-terror measures.

Mrs Clinton reacted to the Mumbai blasts last week, saying it was “more important than ever that we stand with India”. She also reaffirmed her “commitment to the shared struggle against terrorism”. No group has said it planted the bombs but suspicion among some officials and analysts has fallen on the Indian Mujahideen, a group which has claimed to have carried out similar attacks in the past. US officials and political analysts say that Mrs Clinton is also likely to press for better ties between India and Pakistan.

“She will encourage India to do all it can to engage Pakistan, to find areas where they might be able to break down some of their barriers and build some kind of confidence in each other,” Karl Inderfurth, a former senior State Department official, told Reuters news agency. In June, the two countries agreed on improving access to each other’s markets – the US wants India to become one of its top 10 trading partners. India is currently the US’s 12th largest trading partner, with bilateral trade of almost $50bn (£31bn). – BBC