Ahead of the crucial Indo-U.S. strategic dialogue, the Obama administration has said that counter-terrorism cooperation with India is a “very high priority” for it as it would help prevent Mumbai-type attacks in future.

“I do not see any limits on our counter-terrorism cooperation with India,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told reporters during a web-chat hosted by the U.S. State Department on Friday.

“This is a very high priority for the United States to look with our Indian friends to ensure they have the best system possible to prevent future terrorist attacks such as the terrible attack that occurred in Mumbai in November 2008,” he said.

His remarks came ahead of the key visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to India on July 19 and 20 for the Strategic Dialogue between the two countries.

He said one of the hallmarks of India-U.S. cooperation over the last several years has been the increase in their counter-terrorism cooperation. “We are looking to build on that,” he underlined.

The two countries, he said, just had a very successful Homeland Security Dialogue that was chaired and led by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who went to New Delhi in May to meet Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

“They had very successful meetings on a wide range of new collaborative arrangement to expand on homeland security cooperation and counter-terrorism cooperation,” Blake said.

“We do not in any way try to hyphenate that with Pakistan or with any other country. We do it on its own merit. We attach a very high priority,” he said.

Blake said the U.S. views with tremendous respect and admiration the steps India has taken to expand its own cooperation with Afghanistan.

He also said that he did not consider India a non-aligned country now.

“I do not consider India a non-aligned country any more. I think that really changed after 9/11 where India really realised that it has a wide range of common interest with the United States,” he said.

“I do not think that India and the United States would be allies in the traditional sense, but I do think, that we have an expanding convergence of our national interest,” Mr. Blake said.

He said the two leading democracies of the world “have common vales like support for free market economies, support for peace and stability around the world”.

Mr. Blake underlined that India and the US are increasingly working together to help promote peace and security, “so that is why our President has said that this is going to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century”.

In response to a question during the web chat, Mr. Blake said the strategic dialogue would review the relationship between the two countries and focus on the way forward.

“All her (Clinton’s) focus would be to review wide range of cooperation she already had with counterpart External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna. But it is just important to look ahead as to how we take this relationship forward,” the top diplomat said.

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