Clinton says U.S.-India ties need "upgrade"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday Washington’s relations with India needed an “upgrade” and urged closer cooperation on security, trade and other issues.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes remarks after receiving the 2009 Alice Award at Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

Clinton is set to visit India next month and she said she hoped the two nations could work together to solve global challenges from climate change to securing Afghanistan.

“As we pursue an enhanced bilateral relationship, we should recognize that, compared to other metrics of our cooperation, our official ties are past due for an upgrade,” Clinton said in a speech to the U.S.-India Business Council.

“We need the bilateral cooperation between our governments to catch up with our people-to-people and economic ties.”

Last year, India and Washington signed a landmark civil nuclear deal, overturning a 30-year ban on global nuclear commerce with India.

That deal will allow India to procure nuclear technology and fuel for its reactors from the international market.

To improve ties, she said Washington and New Delhi must overcome mistrust and address what she said were lingering uncertainties in the relationship.

She said some Americans feared that greater economic ties with India would mean lost jobs and falling wages, while Indians felt a closer partnership ran counter to the country’s strong tradition of independence.

She also pledged closer economic and trade ties and said negotiations would begin soon on a bilateral investment treaty, creating more opportunities for trade between the two countries.

“President Obama has been clear that the United States has learned the lessons of the past. We will not use the global financial crisis as an excuse to fall back on protectionism,” she said.

Without providing details, Clinton said the two countries needed to increase cooperation in fighting terrorism and improve intelligence-sharing.

“The president and I are committed to enhancing India’s ability to protect itself,” she said, adding that six Americans died in the November attacks on India’s financial capital, Mumbai.

She welcomed Tuesday’s meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan, their first talks since the Mumbai attacks, which New Delhi blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

“As Pakistan now works to take on the challenge of terrorists in its own country, I am confident India, as well as the United States, will support that effort,” Clinton said.