New Delhi, July 19: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held security and counterterrorism talks with Indian officials Tuesday as the two countries try to broaden their relationship and manage mutual concerns about Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Clinton, who arrived in New Delhi late Monday, met with Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon for closed-door talks Tuesday morning.
The meeting kicked off a day of discussions with senior Indian officials. The talks are a new round of U.S.-India strategic dialogue established last year to deepen ties between the world's oldest and largest democracies.
Officials traveling with Clinton said the talks would focus primarily on U.S. plans in Afghanistan, India's strained ties with archrival neighbor Pakistan and economic and trade issues.
The Obama administration is keen to allay Indian concerns of resurgence in Islamic extremism following the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan that began this month, the officials said.
Clinton is expected to outline the drawdown strategy and stress that the United States will not support Afghan reconciliation with insurgents unless it is inclusive and protects the rights of minority groups, religions and women, the officials said.
The U.S. and India both have significant equities at stake in Pakistan. Indian officials accuse Pakistan of supporting extremists behind multiple terrorist attacks on its territory, while U.S. officials fear it is not fully committed to combatting radical plots, such as the failed 2010 Times Square bombing in New York.
Clinton's visit comes less than a week after coordinated bombings in India's commercial hub of Mumbai killed 19 people on July 13. India has alleged Pakistani involvement in an earlier devastating 2008 attack in Mumbai.
The U.S. is eager for fragile peace talks between India and Pakistan to pick up steam.
Clinton's arrival here coincided with talks between the two countries on boosting travel and trade connections in Jammu and Kashmir.
In her talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other officials on Tuesday, Clinton will also stress American and Indian shared democratic values. She will call for those to be leveraged in areas of education, culture and commerce.
The U.S. is seeking greater access for American companies in India. It wants the Indian government to amend recent legislation that could inhibit U.S. firms from investing in India's civilian nuclear sector, the officials said.
From New Delhi, Clinton on Wednesday will move on to the southeastern port of Chennai. She is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit that city.
In Chennai, she plans to deliver a speech on the importance of U.S.-Indian relations, the benefits of enhanced bilateral commercial ties and India's role in South Asia and the greater Asia-Pacific region.
Chennai is home to numerous and growing U.S. investments. In May, Ford Motor Co. said it would spend $72 million to expand an engine plant in the city to support sales and export growth and help the company build more fuel-efficient engines for India and other markets.
Clinton is in India on the third leg of a 12-day, around-the-world diplomatic tour that has already taken her to Turkey and Greece. After India, she will visit Indonesia, Hong Kong and southern mainland China before returning home July 25. AP