Clinton’s India visit: Afghanistan, Iran, n-deal on agenda

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Afghanistan, Iran and progress in the nuclear deal are among the key issues that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to discuss with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna here May 8.

Clinton begins her three-day visit to India – perhaps her farewell visit to the country as the US’ top diplomat – from Kolkata May 6. She will meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday and is expected to press for the opening of the retail sector in the state.

She touches down in Delhi May 7 evening and will hold wide-ranging talks with Krishna May 8 to set the stage for the India-US strategic dialogue in Washington next month.

Besides Krishna, she is expected to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and meet National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

The agenda for the talks has not been unveiled, but officials involved with the visit said “all issues that have a bearing on India-US relations” will be discussed.

With the international troops planning complete withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, cooperation in stabilising the violence-torn country will be on top of the agenda.

Clinton’s visit to India takes place before a series of important global efforts on Afghanistan, including the NATO summit in the US and the Tokyo conference next month.

India is expected to brief Clinton about a conclave of regional investors it plans to organise in June to rope in key regional players for the stability of Afghanistan, said official sources.

Another important issue on the table will be Iran where there is unlikely to be a meeting of minds, with India making it clear that it will abide by the UN sanctions and not unilateral sanctions by the US. However, New Delhi is expected to update Clinton on its efforts to diversify its sources of oil supply. Iran currently accounts for 10-11 percent of India’s total oil imports.

As Clinton will be coming to India after a trip to China, the two sides are also likely to discuss what is widely seen as increased Chinese assertiveness in South China Sea. Clinton has been pitching for a bigger role for India in the East Asia region, asking New Delhi “to act East and think East”.

On the bilateral track, Clinton and Krishna are expected to review the entire gamut of issues, including the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal that continues to languish due to some lingering differences over the scope of India’s civil nuclear deal.

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