Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: The U.S. has called for the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan but maintained that it was up to the two countries to decide on its pace, scope and character as well as how and when to approach that dialogue.

In talks between the top Indian leadership and visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns, Washington agreed to begin talks on nuclear reprocessing arrangements for India before the end of next month.

It also wanted India to accede to a range of cooperation agreements in the areas of defence and international security.

“I am very hopeful that we would be able to get past the issue. We are close and we don’t foresee any stumbling block,” he said about the defence end user agreement that entails inspection of U.S. equipment sold to India. The new U.S. Administration, he said, was committed to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and Mr. Burns described reprocessing as an “important element of implementing the agreement.”

Mr. Burns also handed over a personal letter from U.S. President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which was consistent with the conversation both had in April in London where the President “made clear his commitment for an even broader and deeper relationship with India than we have today. The truth is there is very solid foundation to build upon,” he said.

The senior U.S. official reiterated Washington’s reluctance to get involved in the Kashmir issue but welcomed dialogue and steps to resolve the issue after taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. “This is not new. They have been saying this time and again. We also ascertain the wishes of the Kashmiri people through elections. But I doubt if the Kashmiris want their wishes to be ascertained like the wishes of the people of Swat and Waziristan,” the former Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Naresh Chandra, told The Hindu when asked for his reaction.

Speaking to newspersons after concluding his official engagements here, Mr. Burns said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be visiting India in the second half of next month to build on the existing foundation of the bilateral relationship and explore opportunities to “launch new paths in the strategic partnership.”

The U.S. official also discussed expanding ties in defence, counter terrorism, intelligence sharing, science and technology, clean energy and climate, cooperation between the two economies and education. “The purpose of my visit is to emphasise the importance U.S. attaches to its partnership with India.”

Key global partner

“The U.S. views India as one of the key global partners in the 21st century. My talks leave me convinced that we are off to a very good start and we can accomplish a great deal together in the months and years ahead,” he said.

Mr. Burns admitted Pakistan came up in the majority of the conversations with Indian leaders with the U.S. pointing out that it had “made it very clear that it was Islamabad’s international responsibility to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for last November’s Mumbai attacks.”

He said, “Pakistan has a special responsibility to act immediately, fully and thoroughly. This is something we continue to emphasise to the Pakistan government.”

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