Clinton Meets Indian PM, Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi

Posted May 7th, 2012 at 4:15 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a three-day visit to India, met Monday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the leader of the ruling coalition, Sonia Gandhi.

Clinton was expected to urge India to further cut its Iranian oil imports and find alternative sources of oil on the international market as part of a continued campaign to pressure Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.

Before her talks with Mr. Singh, Clinton praised India for reductions it has already made, but said “Washington hopes they will do even more.”

Clinton held talks with Gandhi at her private residence and also was due to meet her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna, to set the stage for a U.S.-India strategic forum in Washington next month.

Clinton arrived in New Delhi late Monday from Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state, where she met with the state's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The two women were expected to discuss the issue of foreign direct investments and a stalled agreement to share water from the Teesta river with Bangladesh. However, Banerjee said afterwards that the two topics were not on the agenda.

Last year, Banerjee forced the government to roll back an order that would have allowed American companies like Wal-Mart to take a majority stake in multibrand retail operations in India.

While in Kolkata, Clinton noted that Pakistan has not acted on U.S. and Indian calls to capture or try suspected Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, accused of playing a major role in the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai that killed 166 people. The U.S. secretary confirmed Monday that she personally authorized a $10 million bounty for information leading to Saeed's arrest and prosecution.

Clinton also said she believes that al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is in Pakistan. Her Pakistani counterpart, Hina Rabbani Khan, responded that if Washington has evidence of Zawahiri's presence, it should be provided to Islamabad, because al-Qaida is an enemy of both countries.