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India-US to discuss key regional issues at Strategic Dialogue

Washington: India and the US are set to discuss a range of key issues like Pakistan and Afghanistan at their third Strategic Dialogue described by New Delhi as a reflection of the vastness of the bilateral relationship.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is here for the crucial dialogue with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this evening, which will cover themes like defence, homeland security, counter-terrorism and intelligence; economic, energy, climate; S&T, innovation and health; higher education and empowerment; and regional strategies and linkages.

Ahead of the Strategic Dialogue, the two sides initiated a number of sub-dialogues, including the Global Issues Forum, Homeland Security Consultations, Strategic Intelligence Dialogue, the Counter-terrorism Joint Working Group, Cyber Consultations, Information and Communications Technology Working Group, the Women`s Empowerment Dialogue, Dialogue on Health Cooperation and other events.

The Strategic Dialogue is a reflection of the vastness of the India-US relationship and the breadth of engagement between the two countries, External Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

"The issues on the table are pretty clear… it covers a whole host of things apart from discussing strategic and regional issues, we would also have issues related to human resources development, we have issues related to women empowerment and a whole set of issues, homeland security."

Krishna is accompanied by a number of his top ministerial colleagues including Minister for Science and Technology Vilasrao Deshmukh, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Prime Minister`s Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation Advisor Sam Pitroda.

Others in the delegation include Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath, Minister of State for Planning, S&T and Earth Sciences Ashwini Kumar, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, Home Secretary R K Singh, Director of Intelligence Bureau Nehchal Sandhu and Secretary for Higher Education Ashok Thakur.

Ahead of the dialogue, the ambassadors of the two countries made a rare joint appearance to strongly refute the belief here that the India-US relationship is oversold.

Playing a crucial role in deepening of India-US ties, Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao and her American counterpart Nancy Powell have developed a unique chemistry between themselves.

When Powell, wearing an Indian dress – salwar and kurta – arrived at the residence of Rao in Washington yesterday at a reception hosted in honour of Krishna, even many from her own State Department were surprised by her Indian look.

Rao and Powell both hugged each other as the American diplomat arrived at the reception.

"We have had a very good relationship. We are working very closely together and that is typical of when women (are) working together," Powell told NDTV in a joint interview with Rao.

"Absolutely," a beaming Rao chipped in. "The fact that we are two women in Delhi and Washington I believe is good for the relationship," she observed, adding the relationship is going places.

"The fact that we are having the third Strategic Dialogue in which both our governments will take stock of the progress that we have made over the past few years and the tangible achievements will put to rest the lingering doubts that some may have about the future of this relationship. The relationship is in a very good place and the future is very bright," she said.

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