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US, India agree on defence deal during Clinton visit

India and the United States on Monday agreed to a defence deal and two US nuclear power station sites, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pictured with Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, on a five-day visit to India.


AFP - India and the United States agreed Monday a defence deal expected to boost US arms sales here, as New Delhi also approved sites for two US nuclear reactors, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

At a joint press conference with Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, Clinton said the two sides had agreed an "end-use monitoring" arrangement that would provide safeguards for the sale of sophisticated US weaponry to India.

The agreement "will pave the way for greater defence cooperation" Clinton said, while Krishna said it would help the "procurement of US defence technology to India."

A US official said the arrangement was for a provision to be written into future defence contracts, guaranteeing sensitive equipment will be used for its intended purpose and not transferred to a third party.

It will be welcomed by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., which are both competing with Russian, French and Swedish companies for a massive 12-billion-dollar tender to provide 126 fighter jets to the Indian Air Force.

The press briefing came after a day of official meetings between Clinton and a series of senior Indian leaders including Krishna, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.

Clinton was scheduled to leave for Thailand on Tuesday after her five-day India visit that focused on deepening strategic US ties with a country it sees as a key emerging player on the world stage.

During talks, Clinton said India had approved sites for the construction of two multi-billion-dollar US nuclear reactors -- the fruit of a landmark civilian nuclear deal India sealed with former US president George W. Bush last year.

She did not specify the locations, but Indian press reports have suggested they would be in the states of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting people familiar with the issue, said the announcement on the sites would not necessarily lead to immediate contracts for firms like GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse Electric Co. to begin building plants.

In October last year, then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee signed a pact to open up sales of civilian nuclear technology to India for the first time in three decades.

The deal offers India access to US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for allowing UN inspections of some of its civilian nuclear facilities -- but not military nuclear sites.

During her visit Clinton made it clear that President Barack Obama wants to pursue efforts begun under the Bush administration to build ties that reflect the important role India can play in fighting global climate change, promoting trade and curbing nuclear and other weapons.

"We will work not only to maintain our good relationship, but to broaden and deepen it. To that end our governments have agreed on a strategic dialogue... which minister Krishna and I will co-chair," Clinton said.

The issue of climate change, and especially the burden that should be borne by developed and developing countries in reducing carbon emissions, proved a sensitive subject.

In a meeting with Clinton on Sunday, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh sharply criticised the pressure being placed on emerging nations to accept legally binding reduction targets, and insisted that India was "simply in no position" to do so.

Clinton was accompanied by her special climate envoy Todd Stern, who has been tasked with finding a common approach with India before a December summit in Copenhagen aimed at securing a new international agreement on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

India -- like fellow developing heavyweight China -- has refused to commit to emission cuts in the new treaty until developed nations, particularly the United States, present sufficient targets of their own.

"We believe we can work through our differences," Clinton said at Monday's briefing.

During her visit, Prime Minister Singh accepted an invitation to make an official US visit in November.

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