* Clinton presses India on nuclear deal, pledges security
* Clinton seeks to open $150 bln energy market to U.S. firms
* U.S. says pressing Pakistan on militants
* India expresses concern over U.S. Afghan plan
(Adds comments, details)
By Andrew Quinn and Krittivas Mukherjee
NEW DELHI, July 19 U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton urged India on Tuesday to amend a law that has
put off U.S. companies from taking part in the $150 billion
nuclear energy market and further open up Asia's third largest
economy to foreign investment.
Clinton opened high-level U.S.-Indian talks with a polite
but firm push for New Delhi to get moving on key economic issues
as both sides seek to firm up a relationship that thus far has
promised more than it has delivered.
India's government has long pledged to open up the $1.6
billion economy but must also wrestle with local opposition
fearing the loss of jobs to foreign companies.
Clinton also pledged strong U.S. support for India's battle
against extremism -- underscored by last week's deadly triple
bomb attack on Mumbai -- and said she would press India's
nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan to do more to crack down on
militants believed to be operating from its territory.
Clinton's visit to India, her second as secretary of state,
was aimed at building on progress made since U.S. President
Barack Obama visited in November and declared the two giant
democracies were natural partners.
Since then, however, U.S. hopes for swift implementation of
the civilian nuclear deal have run into politically complicated
legislative and regulatory hurdles that major U.S. companies say
block them from getting a piece of the action.
"We need to resolve those issues that still remain so that
we can reap the rewards of the extraordinary work that both of
our governments have done," Clinton said during a news
conference with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna.
The United States wants India to "tighten up" legislation to
protect equipment makers from liability in case of nuclear
accidents, saying it is much more stringent than comparable laws
in other countries. General Electric and Westinghouse,
the U.S.-based arm of Japan's Toshiba Corp , are keen to
take a slice of the market.
A landmark 2008 deal brought India out of the nuclear cold
since facing global sanctions for its 1998 atomic tests, but
also provided a central theme for its relations with the United
WARMING TIES SHADOWED BY DOUBTS
Clinton's visit covers a range of bilateral issues including
counter-terrorism cooperation, which both sides say is a major
priority as relations between the two countries continue to
improve since end of the Cold War, when India was seen as closer
to the old Soviet Union.
"From the American side the focus (of the visit) was on
economic partnership. They want to use the strategic platform to
get greater market access to India and encourage India to move
towards the second generation of economic reforms," said Kanwal
Sibal, a former Indian foreign secretary.
Clinton briefed Indian leaders on U.S. plans to draw down
troops in Afghanistan as well as on Pakistan, where the halting
battle against militants has spurred questions about Islamabad's
Krishna, reflecting widespread concern in India that the
U.S. plan for Afghanistan may leave the country as a base for
Islamic militants, said Washington should take a close look at
the risks involved.
"It is necessary for the United States to factor
Afghanistan's ground realities as they see it...so that they can
appreciate that Afghanistan could be in a position to defend
itself against the terrorists sponsored by the Taliban."
U.S. officials are generally pleased with security
cooperation with India, which range from intelligence sharing on
terror networks to joint efforts against maritime piracy.
But India has long been unhappy about what it perceives as
Washington's resistance to sharing critical, real-time
information on Islamic militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan
that may be plotting to attack Indian targets.
Clinton said she welcomed the dialogue between India and
Pakistan, resumed earlier this year after they were frozen in
the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people in
2008 and blamed on Pakistani-based militants.
The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers are due to meet
in New Delhi later this month to push peace efforts forward.
Clinton again urged Pakistan to do more to tackle terror
groups operating from its territory, an issue which grabbed
Washington's intention in May when al Qaeda leader Osama bin
Laden was killed by U.S. forces in a hideout not far from he
Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
"We have made it clear to the Pakistan government that
confronting violent extremism of all sorts is in its interest,"
she said. "We do not believe that there are any terrorists who
should be given safe haven or a free pass by any government."
Clinton also met Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,
to press him on promises to open domestic financial and
insurance markets, as well as to give greater access to retail
companies, such as U.S. sales giant Wal-Mart .
Clinton made clear that arms sales, too, are part of the
equation, saying India, seen as one of the world's biggest
defence buyers in coming years, could further improve U.S.
military cooperation by buying more U.S. weaponry.
(Additional reporting by C.J. Kuncheria and James Pomfret in
New Delhi; Writing by Paul de Bendern; Editing by Nick Macfie
and Yoko Nishikawa)