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Updated: March 18, 2010 03:27 IST

Nirupama focusses on India’s role in Afghanistan

Narayan Lakshman
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Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has concluded her visit to Washington, during which she impressed upon U.S. officials the importance of India's continued commitment to its developmental work in Afghanistan.
The Hindu Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has concluded her visit to Washington, during which she impressed upon U.S. officials the importance of India's continued commitment to its developmental work in Afghanistan.

Says Afghanistan presented the foremost security-related challenge in the region.

Nirupama Rao, Indian Foreign Secretary, has concluded her visit to Washington, during which she impressed upon U.S. officials the importance of India's continued commitment to its developmental work in Afghanistan. Her trip also saw a sharp focus on high-tech trade and the Strategic Dialogue that was initiated last July when Secretary Clinton visited India.

In a brief to U.S. interlocutors earlier this week, Ms. Rao drew attention to several key regional issues, according to Rahul Chhabra, spokesman of the Indian Embassy, including her talks with the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan in February. She also touched upon recent developments in Afghanistan and “stressed that Afghanistan presented the foremost security related challenge in the region,” Mr. Chhabra said. In that context, Ms. Rao emphasised the need “for the international community to stay the present course in Afghanistan for as long as it is necessary.” U.S. officials reportedly conveyed their appreciation of the important developmental work being done by India in Afghanistan.

Ms. Rao also co-chaired the 7th meeting of the India-United States High Technology Cooperation Group. Addressing officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce, she used the platform to push for a favourable review of U.S. export controls applicable to India, to bring them in line with “the changed political realities that contextualise India-U.S. strategic partnership today.”

Two days of deliberations — between the industry representatives of both countries followed by the government-to-government meetings to consider the recommendations of the industry — led to consolidation of the progress made in the last five years and identified the next steps for further expanding high technology trade. The dialogue particularly focused on the areas of defence and strategic trade, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, with agreement on the need to create new groups on health, IT and civil aviation.

Ms. Rao also met with a number of senior administration officials to further the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, National Security Advisor James Jones, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Robert Hormats and Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero. Further, she interacted with Congressman Gary Ackerman — who headed up the recent Congressional hearing on the Lashkar-e-Taiba — and Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Mr. Chhabra said that at these meetings Ms. Rao reviewed the progress “on various pillars of India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue agenda, including cooperation in defence, nuclear energy, counter-terrorism, agriculture, education and energy.”

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