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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
US plays down Indian help in Iraq
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in Delhi
US-India relations would grow "in all aspects", said Armitage
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says he has made no request for India to send troops to Iraq.

He was speaking in Delhi after talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as India's foreign minister and national security adviser.

The US wants Delhi more involved in Iraq's UN-approved transition process.

Shortly before leaving for Pakistan, Mr Armitage also said he was satisfied with Islamabad's crackdown on al-Qaeda in the Afghan border region.

Mr Armitage's visit to India is the first by a senior US official since the change of government in Delhi in May.

The new government has consistently ruled out sending its soldiers to Iraq.

Mr Armitage told journalists the two sides focused primarily on Iraq and ways in which India could help.

No change

Peace talks between India and Pakistan and the situation in Afghanistan were also on the agenda.

Mr Armitage said there would be no difference in relations between the two countries after the Congress-led coalition government came to power.

"The Congress party is well known to us. We have absolute confidence that the US-India relationship is going to grow in all aspects," he said.

Baghdad bomb blast
The US wants India to become more involved in Iraq

The previous government, led by the right-of-centre Bharatiya Janata Party, enjoyed an excellent rapport with policy-makers in the US.

The new government has socialists in the cabinet and is also dependent on communist parties for its survival - both groups have been critical of the US in the past particularly on Iraq.

The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava says no dramatic or substantial shift in foreign policy is expected but the new Indian government wants to project a more neutral image to the world.

The deputy secretary of state also discussed regional issues, saying that the situation in Kashmir, the Himalayan state disputed between India and Pakistan, would have to improve.

"Clearly people are still dying and this is an unacceptable situation," he said.

Shortly before heading to Islamabad, Mr Armitage said the US would lean on Pakistan to do more against Taleban and al-Qaeda remnants.

"We are certainly satisfied that the battle against al-Qaeda is one in which our Pakistani friends are engaged full force," he said.

Mr Armitage said actions against militants in South Waziristan had been "muscular" but that Pakistan needed to be more muscular against the Taleban.

The deputy secretary will meet Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mahmud Kasuri on Thursday.

On Friday he will leave for Afghanistan.

The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava
"The visiting US officials scotched speculation about the US wanting Delhi to send its troops to Iraq"

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