Indo-US talks on counter-terrorism, Af-Pak, nuke ties

New Delhi: Terror attack in Mumbai will lend a sharper edge to the discussions US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will have with Indian leadership next week as part of Indo-US strategic dialogue that will also focus on situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and nuclear cooperation apart from counter-terrorism.

Noting that India and the US were "much closer" and the security exchanges were more frequent, Charge d`Affaires Peter Burleigh today said both sides are committed to a "long-term" partnership which covers almost every "conceivable" issue from education to counter-terrorism in the bilateral relationship.

"We are committed to this important relationship with India with regard to cooperation in counter-terrorism and security concerns and we will be as responsive as we can be.

"We have very close relationship with India in counter- terrorism and security issues, that has thickened and broadened dramatically over the past couple of years. The process has been going for several years but particularly after Mumbai attacks in 2008…. We have been intimately involved," he told reporters here.

Asked if the US had any intelligence input on yesterday`s attack, the envoy said, "Not to the best of (my) knowledge" while noting that apart from exchanging views on various groups and challenges that confront both the countries, the US shares any kind of information that "impacts security of India".

On a query whether the US will grant access to India to terrorists David Headley and Tahawwur Rana, currently in custody of the US, he said, "This is something we continue to discuss, US inclination is to be accommodating to Indian request but judicial process makes it more complex."

Burleigh said the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan will also figure importantly with Clinton expected to talk about US relationship with Pakistan and would like to hear about the evolving Indo-Pak discussions from her counterpart S M Krishna.

The Secretary of State would also brief India about Washington`s negotiations with a section of the Taliban and discuss the drawdown strategy in Afghanistan, he said, adding, "We have been keeping the Indian government informed about preliminary discussions with a section of the Taliban leadership".

The envoy said the US is also aware of the Indian concerns over some aspects of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Noting that the US and India have robust interaction on Afghanistan, Burleigh said his country "welcomes" New Delhi`s role in the reconstruction and development of the war-torn country.

He also reiterated his country`s commitment for the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement, saying, "We are fully committed to implementing our previous agreement, including the 123 (bilateral civil nuclear accord) and nuclear waiver (granted by the NSG in September 2008)."

"No doubt it will be discussed (during the strategic dialogue)" and like other countries, the US would also want its companies to get nuclear contracts in India, he said.

Emphasising that the US has removed most of Indian entities from the export control list, he also assured that the existing barriers in the way of high-tech trade will come down soon. "We would like to see expanded trade in high technology," he said.