India, US officials discuss agriculture, trade, climate change

The meetings came on the eve of the Cabinet-level Strategic Dialogue, which would be co-chaired by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his US counterpart Hillary Clinton at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department. The decision to start the Strategic Dialogue between the two countries at the ministerial-level was taken during last year's India visit of Clinton.

Top US officials say Clinton and President Barack Obama are keen in elevating the Indo-US relationship and think that Strategic Dialogue is the best way to do so. An official briefed on the contours of Wednesday's discussions told reporters that excellent progress was made in all of these meetings and it set the tone for the Krishna-Clinton dialogue.

Reluctant to divulge the details of these series of meetings held at different places in Washington, another official expressed confidence that the Strategic Dialogue would lay the strong foundation for the next level of Indo-US relationship as is being visualised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Obama. At the State Department, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao held the Foreign Policy Dialogue.

Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar, Joint Secretary (America) Gayatri Kumar, US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake were among those who participated in the intensive dialogue. Besides the strategic relations, the two sides are understood to have discussed the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East.

There was a wide convergence of views between the two countries, officials pointed out. At the State Department itself, Clinton met HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, which officials termed as a fruitful and productive discussion.

Both the Indian and American leadership are keen to expand cooperation in the field of education sector, which has been unprecedented so far. One official said the idea is to unleash an education revolution in India. Sibal also held talks with US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia held meetings with Larry Summers, the top Economic Advisor to the US President, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Relations Michael Forman. He also led the Indian delegation in talks with the Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats and USAID Administrator Raj Shah on US-India Agriculture Dialogue.

Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan held a bilateral dialogue with John Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Assistant to the US President for Science and technology. He also addressed a well-attended meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Sciences on 'Changing India S&T landscape: Opportunities for collaborations', besides meeting a group of eminent Indian-American scientists.

Environment Secretary Vijai Sharma was the Indian interlocutor for the India-US climate dialogue. He also met US Climate Change Envoy Todd Stern. Special Secretary (Internal Security) U K Bansal visited the National Counter-terrorism Centre to have a first-hand experience of the American way of handling of terrorism issue. He also met his counterparts in the US Government to discuss ways to enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism sector.

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