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US, India Expand Partnership with Defense, Nuclear Deals

20 July 2009

The United States and India have expanded their emerging partnership with agreements that could clear the way for large-scale Indian purchases of U.S. nuclear and military technology.  The accords were announced as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton capped a five-day visit to India.

US Sec. of State Hillary Clinton (L) and India's FM S.M. Krishna exchange documents after signing an agreement in New Delhi, 20 Jul 2009
US Sec. of State Hillary Clinton (L) and India's FM S.M. Krishna exchange documents after signing an agreement in New Delhi, 20 Jul 2009
The agreements announced by Clinton and Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna aim to accelerate a growing partnership ignited by the two countries' landmark nuclear cooperation accord reached in 2005.

In a step to advance the nuclear accord, India has approved two sites in that country where U.S. firms will have exclusive rights to build nuclear power plants, action that could mean $10-billion worth of business for American companies.

The sides also reached a so-called "end use" monitoring agreement that would ensure U.S. military technology provided to India is not sold or otherwise transferred to third parties.

That accord mandated by the U.S. Congress is a necessary prerequisite for American aerospace firms to bid on a pending Indian purchase of 126 multi-role fighter jets, potentially the largest-ever arms sale.

At a news conference, Clinton and her Indian counterpart said they had agreed to launch and be co-chairs of a "strategic dialogue" that will involve a wide range of government agencies on both sides.

Clinton said the two countries, which had frosty relations during the Cold War era and beyond, still  differ on some key issues but that their new partnership has the potential to be a "signature accomplishment" of the two governments.

"At a time when the headlines are filled with challenges, the relationship between the United States and India is a good news story.  And I believe, minister, that it is going to get even better," she said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) talks to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in New Delhi, India, 20 Jul 2009
Indian PM Manmohan Singh (R) talks to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New Delhi, 20 Jul 2009
Clinton said Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh, with whom she met earlier Monday, had accepted an invitation from President Obama to visit the White House November 24 for the first official state visit for the Obama administration.

Foreign Minister Krishna said the understandings reached with Clinton add a "qualitative substance" to the bilateral relationship.

"India and the United States of America regard each other as global partners.  Our two democracies can play a leading and constructive role on the global level in addressing the urgent global challenges of our times," he said.

The Clinton visit was not without discord, with India saying flatly Sunday it intends to stand firm against western demands that it accept binding limitations on the growth of its greenhouse gas emissions.

Clinton, who insisted India can make emission cuts without harming its economy, said she is optimistic the two governments can reach a common approach before the world conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

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