New Delhi: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and is understood to have discussed terrorism and Pakistan, besides ways to enhance bilateral relations.
Clinton, who is on a five-day visit to India, met Singh at his office in 7 Race Course Road here. She was accompanied by US ambassador-designate Timothy Roemer among others.
The US Secretary of State will also meet external affairs minister SM Krishna during which the two sides are expected to look at ways to take the strategic ties to a new level.
India and the United States are expected to sign an agreement that would take a major step towards allowing the sale of sophisticated US arms to the South Asian nation, three senior US officials said.
Known as an “end-use monitoring” agreement and required by US law for such weapons sales, the pact would let Washington check that India was using any arms for the purposes intended and preventing the technology from leaking to others.
The deal would be a tangible accomplishment of Hillary Clinton’s first trip to India as US secretary of state and it could prove a boon to US companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in New Delhi on Monday. Reuters Photo
Both US defence contractors are in the running to compete for India’s plan to buy 126 multi-role fighters, which would be one of the largest arms deals in the world as India takes steps to modernise its largely Russian-made arsenal.
The two US companies are competing with Russia’s MiG-35, France’s Dassault Rafale, Sweden’s Saab KAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, made by a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish firms, for the contract.
The US officials, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, said the defence agreement was not finalised as of late Sunday but that they expected it to go through in time for Clinton’s signature on Monday.
“If we don’t sign that, it will be a definite slap in the face,” said a US congressional aide ahead of Clinton’s visit to New Delhi, where she met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was to see External Affairs Minister SM Krishna in the evening.
Clinton’s visit aims to deepen ties with India, a country whose economic power and political stability make it a natural US ally, according to analysts, despite the long history of US-Indian tensions during the Cold War, when Washington at times tilted toward Pakistan.
Before her official meetings, Clinton on Monday spoke to students at Delhi University and said both sides should try to get past stereotypes to build on strong US-Indian links.
“People watching a Bollywood movie in some other parts of Asia (may) think everybody in India is beautiful and they have dramatic lives and happy endings,” she said to laughter.
“And if you were to watch American TV and our movies, you’d think that we don’t wear clothes and we spend a lot of time fighting with each other,” Clinton said.
US officials hope for two other tokens of a closer relationship to be confirmed during Clinton’s trip: an Indian announcement of two nuclear sites reserved for US companies to build reactors and a broad strategic dialogue to be led by the US secretary of state and the Union foreign minister.
Clinton hinted at the latter, telling the students that the two sides would announce “a comprehensive strategic approach” to cover a breadth of issues in their relationship.
US officials estimate that the nuclear sites represent up to $10 billion in business for U.S. nuclear reactor builders such as General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co, a subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba Corp.
In addition to her official talks with Singh and Krishna, Clinton planned to meet Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling Congress party, and with LK Advani, the leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, on Monday.