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Hillary pledges to strengthen Indo-US ties

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
February 04, 2008 09:03 IST
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Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, in an op-ed article written exclusively for India Abroad -- the international newsweekly published in the US in five editions and owned by -- has pledged to take India-US relations to even greater heights if she becomes the president. On the eve of the February 5 mega-primary, she has vowed to work more closely with the Indian American community to make this happen.

In her article titled US-Indian Relations: A New Era, Clinton said that one of the most difficult tasks for the new president would be "taking our foreign policy in a new direction and restoring America's leadership in the world."

"As president," she declared, "I'll reach out to our allies again and work with them to tackle global problems. America's partnership with India will be among the most important."

Clinton said that there's no denying that, "from globalisation and nuclear proliferation to climate change and terrorism -- India matters more than ever." She argued that it is imperative that "our two great democracies must be strategic partners, bound together by shared values and common interests."

She reiterated, "As President, I will work with India to make our strong friendship even stronger --to the benefit of both nations."

Clinton pointed out that she is no stranger to this relationship and recalled that as First Lady, she had traveled twice to India. She added that she would never forget her 1995 visit, when she traveled to Ahmedabad and met women owning and running their own businesses through micro-credit financing."

She also reminisced fondly about her meeting in New Delhi with Sonia Gandhi, how warmly she was welcomed and referred to the speech she made to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

Clinton also spoke of her second visit to India, when she visited Kolkata and met the then President K R Narayanan. She recalled their discussions about "the great strides being made to send more girls to school and to bring girls and women into the circle of economic and social opportunity."

Clinton made sure that no one forgets the transformation of the Indo-US relationship during the tenure of her husband, President Bill Clinton, his memorable visit to India in March 2000 and what could be in store for bilateral ties during her presidency. "I am proud that the Clinton administration helped build a strong partnership between India and the United States and I was proud that President Clinton made that historic visit to India in 2000," she said.

She also spoke of her role as co-chair of the Friends of India Caucus in the US Senate, which she co-chaired with Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, which for all intents and purposes, is now defunct or in a state of slumber.

Clinton also said that as a Senator from New York, "I have been honored to represent a thriving Indian American community, among the most successful immigrants in our nation's history."

She also did not forget to mention that she had voted in favor of the US-India civilian nuclear agreement, which was approved overwhelmingly by the US Senate in December 2006, following a thumping vote in the House several months earlier, and which was signed into law by President Bush.

Clinton said that during her presidency, Washington and New Delhi, by working together, could not only strengthen the economic partnership between the two countries, but also "combat terrorism, foster a stable and democratic Pakistan, advance democratic values, promote human rights, tackle global warming and address a host of other problems."

She promised that she would "not only meet regularly with India's leaders, but I will call on the Indian American community to help build a bridge of cooperation between our two great countries which will serve the United States and India and will help create a brighter future for the citizens of our two great nations."

Sources close to the Clinton campaign acknowledged that the article was prompted by her desire to reach out to the Indian American community on the eve of Super Tuesday, when she would compete for the most number of delegates in major states like California, New York, New Jersey, with arch rival Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. These major primaries could decide who will secure the Democratic Party's nomination for president.

Sources told that the editorial was certainly an attempt to remind the Indian American community of her close ties to India and her experience in promoting US-India relations – her visits to India and her role as co-chair of the India Caucus in the Senate.

In particular, the sources admitted, it was to make sure that the younger generation of Indian Americans and several second-generation professionals, who apparently had gravitated towards the Obama camp, would be mindful of not only of her experience but "track record in working toward great US-India relations."

As one source put it, "She not just talked the talk, but walked the walk."

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC