(AFP) – Jul 8, 2011
NEW DELHI — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to visit India this month for strategic talks with Indian leaders, a spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry said on Friday.
Clinton will be the most senior US official to visit India since a state visit by US President Barack Obama last November.
She will travel to New Delhi to attend the second India-US Strategic Dialogue on July 19 after presiding over the first such meeting between the world's two largest democracies last year in Washington.
"We are working on a programme" for Clinton's visit, foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash told AFP.
Prakash did not elaborate on the topics up for discussion during Clinton's talks with Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna but regional security was expected to be high on the agenda.
Security cooperation, commercial and other ties between India and the United States have improved rapidly in the past decade -- a departure from the Cold War era when relations were often mistrustful and occasionally hostile.
India has long accused neighbouring Pakistan of harbouring militant groups and analysts say it is becoming increasingly concerned that growing unrest in Pakistan could compromise the safety of the country's nuclear arsenal.
India, which is also armed with nuclear weapons, and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947.
The Press Trust of India quoted unnamed Indian sources as saying New Delhi's suspicions of links between militant Islamist groups and Pakistan's powerful military secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, would be part of the discussions.
US plans to start cutting troop numbers in Afghanistan from July, with all foreign soldiers due out by the end of 2014, were also expected to be discussed.
India fears that Afghanistan could fall under the control of a Taliban-influenced government friendly to Pakistan in the wake of the departure of western troops.
A spokesman for the US Embassy in New Delhi said it had no immediate comment on Clinton's visit.
Clinton last visited the South Asian region in late May when she flew into Pakistan and urged Islamabad to take decisive steps to defeat Al-Qaeda after relations between the wary allies went into freefall following the US commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.
US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited India at the same time as Clinton made her trip to Pakistan in a move to strengthen anti-terror information-sharing between India and the United States.
Clinton's Indian visit will be preceded by a meeting next week in New Delhi of the India-US High Technology Cooperation Group which seeks to promote the use of advanced technologies, an Indian foreign ministry statement said.
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