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In India, Upbeat Clinton Seeks To Dispel 'Stereotypes'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses an audience at Delhi University in New Delhi on July 20.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is continuing a visit to India that is meant to deepen political and economic ties with a country which is seen by many as a natural U.S. ally in Asia.

The two sides were expected to sign a framework agreement on the sale of American arms to India, and also discuss U.S. companies' participation in India's civilian nuclear energy program.

Clinton's talks on climate change in New Delhi on July 19 fell short of hopes, in that the Indian side refused to consider limits on its greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States and India have enjoyed improving relations in recent years, but the distance that persists between them after decades of Cold War tensions has still to be fully overcome.

Beaming confidence and goodwill, Clinton is projecting the Obama style of foreign relations, namely to express understanding, and to avoid superpower unilateralism.

Speaking to university students and staff on July 20, she said it was time to get beyond the stereotypes the two states had built up of each other, which she described as being derived from Hollywood and Bollywood images.

Her determination to be positive emerged early in her trip, when she met Minister of State for the Environment, Jairam Ramesh. She received a sharp rebuff from Ramesh on the question of limiting India's greenhouse gas emissions.
"The challenge is to create a global framework that recognizes the different needs and responsibilities of developed and developing countries alike, and I not only understand but I agree with the concerns of countries like India," Clinton responded. "The United States and other countries that have been the biggest historic emitters of greenhouse gases should shoulder the biggest burden for cleaning up the environment and reducing our carbon footprint."

Ramesh said there is "simply no case" for pressuring India to cut its emissions, when per capita it is one of the lowest air polluters in the world.

Clinton met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with whom she discussed combating terrorism and other topics.

"Combating terrorism and extremism is our number one challenge. It is something that I take very personally," Clinton, a former senator from New York, said.

India has accused Pakistan of involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks which killed 175 people. But Clinton put in a good word for the Islamabad government, saying she senses a new determination to fight extremism.

"Over the six months that we have been in office, I have seen a real commitment on the part of the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people to taking on the extremists that threaten them," Clinton said. "It's no longer about somebody else -- it's their hotels being blown up and their police that are being killed, and their people who are being beheaded and mistreated."

Clinton was also due to sign a security agreement under which India would undertake not to pass on to a third party any U.S. high-tech arms information.

That accord would open the way for the sale of sophisticated weapons systems to India, which traditionally buys its arms from Russia.

U.S. defense companies are eagerly awaiting the deal so they can compete for big Indian contracts.

The two sides are also due to sign an accord opening he way for American nuclear energy companies to build electricity-generating reactors in India, and further, to sign a document on closer strategic cooperation.

Iran is also expected to figure in the talks. Clinton told Indian television (NDTV) she wanted to find out what basis the Indian government has for its "benign interpretation" of Iran's intentions, particularly regarding Iran's disputed presidential election and its nuclear program.

compiled from agency reports