Clinton presses Pakistan to 'do more' in fight against terrorism
NEW DELHI -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrapped up a three-day visit to India on Tuesday, downplaying differences over Iran, stressing the shared goal of a stable Afghanistan and calling for greater access for U.S. companies to India's booming economy.
But Clinton reserved her most pointed comments for neighboring Pakistan, which she called on to stop using its territory as a haven for insurgents keen on striking nearby countries or its own people.
"We look to the government of Pakistan to do more," she said at a news conference with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna. "We need stronger, more concerted efforts against the scourge of terrorism."
India was the last leg of an Asia trip that included China and Bangladesh. Indian and U.S. officials are set to meet again in Washington in mid-June for strategic talks.
Clinton said a foiled plot out of Yemen, revealed Monday, underscored the evolving threat faced by the U.S., India and other nations as extremists refine their methods. The plot reportedly involved a non-metallic explosive device that wouldn't show up on most airport screening systems, similar to a failed "underwear bomber" plot in 2009.
Clinton said greater cooperation is needed to prevent terrorist acts and recruitment, which she described as a "dead end" path.
Clinton and Krishna also discussed the ticklish issue of Iran. The U.S. has pushed India to halt Iranian oil imports in order to stem Tehran's nuclear ambitions, a move that India has resisted. Clinton said both nations shared the same goal of a nuclear-weapons-free Iran, and she vowed to send an envoy to India next week to help search for alternate sources of energy.
India now imports about 9% of its oil from Iran, down from 12% last year. Some of the decline may be commercially driven, however, as Indian companies shy away from higher insurance and shipping costs associated with Iranian petroleum.
"We have a strong interest in a peaceful and negotiated settlement of issues relating to Iran's nuclear program," Krishna said.
Analysts said India's weak coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, faces something of a balancing act as it tries to work with Washington without appearing to bow to U.S. pressure. A dozen countries, including India and China, face a June 28 deadline to reduce their Iranian oil imports or risk having access to the U.S. banking system blocked.
Clinton and Krishna also discussed Afghanistan during a one-hour meeting, as NATO combat troops prepare to depart by 2014. India has agreed to host a business conference in June aimed at encouraging companies to invest more in Afghanistan. The U.S., which initially discouraged Indian assistance in Afghanistan for fear of upsetting Pakistan, is now encouraging New Delhi to get involved as a way to help fill the expected power vacuum as NATO forces reduce their presence.
U.S.-Indian relations have hit some speed bumps recently over Iran sanctions, India's choice of a French jet over an American advanced fighter aircraft and ongoing problems U.S. companies face trying to secure deals in India's civilian nuclear industry.
"Pursuing stronger U.S.-India cooperation has proven to be a more difficult process than many in the U.S. originally anticipated," said Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow with Washington's Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. However, she added that concern over China's rise and shared democratic values should keep cooperation on track.
Clinton told reporters that the U.S. looked for stronger defense agreements with India and fewer trade and investment barriers. Trade between the two countries has grown 10-fold to $100 billion since she first visited India in 1995, she said. "But there's much more potential," she added.
-- Mark Magnier
Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton address the media after a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna in New Delhi. Credit: Harish Tyagi / EPA