At the end of the first round of strategic dialogue between India and the United States here, the two countries significantly expanded the breadth of their collaboration across a range of areas. These include counter-terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation, United Nations Security Council reform, trade and investment, science and technology, climate change mitigation, energy and food security, education, agriculture, healthcare and empowerment of women.
In a rare symbolic gesture designed to underscore the importance of the U.S.' relationship with India, President Barack Obama made a brief visit to the State Department during a reception for select officials and the media. He announced that his much anticipated visit to India would come in “early November.”
The dialogue, led by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saw both sides pledging to “continue to consult each other closely on regional and global developments and remain sensitive to each other's interests,” given their role as strategic partners.
Reiterating Under Secretary William Burns' statements at a recent event, Ms. Clinton said after the conclusion of the discussions that the U.S. considered India an important part of any future reform plans for the Security Council, even if there was no consensus yet in the multilateral context.
Both Indian officials and their U.S. counterparts came out with strong comments on the need to tackle terror attacks. In his opening remarks before the plenary session, Mr. Krishna said: “Though the epicentre of this threat lies in India's neighbourhood, it reaches far and wide all across the world as we have seen time and again, and most recently a few weeks back in the Times Square.”
He also noted that given that the groups preaching “the ideology of hatred and violence are increasingly coalescing, sharing resources and operating as one,” it was incumbent upon both countries to focus their efforts “laser-like” on every one of them.
In the course of the strategic dialogue, Mr. Krishna said India was assured of access to David Headley. India's Ambassador to the U.S. Meera Shankar added that the Indian delegation was in touch with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the “entire process” after which the assurances were made.
President Obama also emphasised the transnational nature of terror threats. He said tackling these threats would require “making progress for the Afghan people and preventing terrorism, whether it's in Manhattan or in Mumbai.” It would include securing vulnerable nuclear materials, a goal that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had furthered by committing India to building a new centre of excellence for nuclear energy and security.
Mr. Obama again touched upon the high priority his administration accorded to the U.S.-India relationship. Pointing to Dr. Singh's visit last November, he said: “It was a state visit that demonstrated that our relations with India are at the highest of priorities for my administration, and for me personally as President of the United States.” He believed that India was a “leader in Asia and around the world. It's a rising power and a responsible global power.”
Mr. Obama said his administration's new National Security Strategy, released last week, made the importance of India “absolutely clear.” “A fundamental pillar of America's comprehensive engagement with the world involves deepening our cooperation with the 21st century centres of influence — and that includes India,” he said.