MUMBAI (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met survivors of the Mumbai attacks, talked climate change with Indian industrialists and was serenaded by village women as she visited India’s financial capital on Saturday.
On a trip aimed at deepening U.S.-Indian ties, Clinton’s first act was to attend a commemoration of the victims of the November 26-29 militant attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.
In a sign of solidarity, she stayed at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, one of two luxury landmarks, along with the Trident/Oberoi, which were the primary targets of the Islamist gunmen who besieged India’s financial and entertainment hub.
“I wanted to send a message that I personally and our country is in sympathy and solidarity with the employees and the guests of the Taj who lost their lives ... with the people of Mumbai,” Clinton told India’s Times Now in an interview.
She also wanted to give “a rebuke to the terrorists who may have tragically taken lives but did not destroy the spirit (and) resilience of the people of this city or nation.”
Speaking earlier, Clinton said the bombings of two Jakarta luxury hotels that killed nine people on Friday were a “painful reminder” that the threat of “violent extremism” still lurks.
“It is global, it is ruthless, it is nihilistic and it must be stopped.”
India blames Pakistani militants for the violence and has paused five-year-old peace talks with its nuclear-armed rival until it is satisfied with Pakistan’s action against militants and commitment not to let its soil be used to launch attacks.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani agreed on Thursday to fight terrorism jointly, but Singh insisted Pakistan must punish those responsible for the Mumbai attacks if it wants formal talks.
While saying it was up to the two sides how to proceed in their talks, Clinton said Pakistan had begun to show much greater determination “to take on the terrorists,” apparently referring to its military campaign against Taliban insurgents.
The U.S. secretary of state also met some of India’s business titans, including Reliance Industries Ltd. Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata.
Clinton’s agenda encompasses everything from reining in climate change and promoting economic growth to advancing nuclear and defense deals potentially worth tens of billions of dollars to U.S. companies.
She said she was “optimistic” that the two sides would be able to conclude a defense pact allowing Washington to monitor whether U.S. arms sold are used for their intended purposes and to ensure the technology does not spread to other countries.
Such a pact is necessary under U.S. law for U.S. firms to bid for India’s plan to buy 126 multi-role fighters, one of the largest arms deals in the world at $10.4 billion and a potential boon to Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
The United States also hopes that during Clinton’s trip, which takes her to New Delhi on Sunday, the Indian government will announce two sites where U.S. firms would have the exclusive right to build nuclear power plants.
During a visit to a handicrafts shop, Clinton carried out an Internet video call with village women and later beamed as she was surrounded by a group of women who sang for her.
Writing by Bryson Hull and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Alex Richardson and Richard Balmforth