Obama tells Singh that U.S. values its ties with India

After talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the president says the nations have agreed to boost cooperation in areas including the economy, agriculture, technology, trade and security.
Reporting from Washington - President Obama reassured India's prime minister Tuesday that the partnership between their two countries would be "one of the defining relationships of the 21st century."Appearing with Manmohan Singh at the White House after two hours of talks, Obama said the United States and India have agreed to broaden cooperation in a variety of areas, including the economy, agriculture, technology, trade and counter-terrorism."The United States and India are natural allies," the president said at a news conference.Indian officials have worried recently that the Obama administration might be less committed than its predecessors to strengthening the U.S.-Indian relationship. Indians are anxious that their relationship is taking a back seat to growing U.S. ties with China and Pakistan. Obama returned last week from a trip to Asia that included a three-day stop in China.But the administration made a special effort to dispel those perceptions: Singh is the first foreign leader invited to the Obama White House for a state visit, which included a state dinner Tuesday night.The president emphasized that the U.S. is not looking solely to China for leadership in Asia."The United States welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia," Obama said. He also accepted an invitation from Singh to visit India next year.Ashley J. Tellis, who was a senior South Asia aide in George W. Bush's administration, said Obama's statements held valuable symbolism. But the "real tests are yet to come," said Tellis, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It remains to be seen whether the United States will devote the time needed to build a strategic relationship, and whether the two countries can work out their differences on such issues as climate change and nuclear nonproliferation, he said.The Obama administration would like India to take aggressive steps to reduce carbon emissions, while India contends that the developed world should bear a larger share of that responsibility.India, which has nuclear programs, has also been reluctant to impose tough economic sanctions on Iran, with which it has strong economic ties. The United States and many other Western powers allege that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Iran says its nuclear development program is for civilian energy purposes. Obama and Singh may have been closer on concerns about Taliban militants in Afghanistan, a subject that the prime minister raised repeatedly this week at a series of public meetings in Washington, and which the two leaders discussed at the White House.Michael Hammer, a White House spokesman, said Singh and Obama "agreed that stabilizing Afghanistan and preventing a return of the Taliban to power are critically important."Hammer said that in their discussion of Iran, the two leaders "resolved to work together to make sure that all countries live up to their international obligations in the nuclear context."Teresita Schaffer, a former U.S. ambassador now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Indians don't want the U.S. to fail in Afghanistan because they believe it would mean "a much bigger footprint for militant Islam." More broadly, she said, "they've bet their international role on ties to a United States strong enough to deliver the goods."Read More....

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