NEW DELHI // The visiting US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, urged India yesterday to open its markets to more American companies.
The US president, Barack Obama, signed agreements with the Indian government during his trip to India in November aimed at reducing trade barriers and protectionist measures. Yesterday, America's top diplomat pressed Indian officials to implement those accords quickly.
"The stakes are high, so it is critical that this dialogue lead to concrete and co-ordinated steps that each of our governments take to produce real results," Mrs Clinton said at a news conference alongside SM Krishna, the Indian foreign minister.
In particular, she called for a swift resolution to Washington's dispute with New Delhi over investments in nuclear energy, imploring India to change the liability laws that hinder investment by American companies and make it difficult for them to compete against state-owned firms. India has not yet ratified a global convention that shields technology suppliers from damages in the event of an atomic accident.
"We need to resolve those issues that still remain so that we can reap the rewards of the extraordinary work that both of our governments have done," Mrs Clinton said.
For two American manufacturers of reactors and other nuclear equipment, General Electric and Westinghouse, the potential financial rewards in India are high. India is planning to spend up to US$150 billion to develop its nuclear infrastructure.
Mrs Clinton's visit to India came less than a week after a triple bombing killed 20 people in Mumbai, the country's financial capital. Yesterday, she offered her condolences and the promise of US backing in fighting terrorism.
"The American people stand with the Indian people in times of trial and offer support to India's efforts to bring the perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice," Mrs Clinton said in a statement released by the Indian ministry of external affairs.
"We are allies in the fight against violent extremist networks. And homeland security is a high priority and a source of increasing partnership," Mrs Clinton later told reporters. While the US and India have already signed agreements to co-operate in counterterrorism efforts, "the events in Mumbai have driven home how important it is that we get results", she said.
During her meeting with Mr Krishna and other top Indian officials, Mrs Clinton discussed US plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. Later, the Indian foreign minister expressed concern that the withdrawal could lead to an increase in Islamic extremism and threaten India's porous borders.
"It is in the larger interests of the region that it is necessary for the United States to work very closely with [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai and the government of Afghanistan and thereby create conditions where terrorists do not take any more advantage in Afghanistan," Mr Krishna said.
Security experts believe that Indian authorities long have been dissatisfied with what they perceive as American resistance to sharing information on Islamic militants and potential Indian targets. Nitin Pai said the Indian government will continue to demand that Pakistan stops its citizens from any kind of support for armed attacks abroad.
"To the extent that the US can influence this process, India should keep the matter on the bilateral agenda with the United States," said Mr Pai, a fellow at the Takshashila Institution, a think tank in Chennai. "Internal security cannot be subordinated to foreign-policy goals."
Mrs Clinton's scheduled trip to Chennai today will be watched especially closely by the American business community. Located in the city are branches of a clutch of prominent US-based companies, including Amazon, PayPal and Verizon.
"Her trip to Chennai is an indicator why the relationship is strategic. US companies operate there, Americans work there and the city has an important business hub," Mr Pai said.
"Mrs Clinton's visit to a city distant from Delhi shows that engaging India is more than engaging its capital."
* With additional reporting from Associated Press