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Former Indian Foreign Secretary JN Dixit
"This visit takes place after the Cold War is over"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 10:42 GMT
Clinton to visit India

The first visit by a US president in 22 years

US President Bill Clinton is to make an historic state visit to India next month - the first by an American president for 22 years.

The White House said in a statement Clinton would travel to South Asia during the week of 20 March, spending five days in India before heading to neighbouring Bangladesh.

I'm going because it's the biggest democracy in the world
President Clinton
"I'm going because it's the biggest democracy in the world and I think we haven't been working with them enough," Mr Clinton said.

"We have an enormous common interest in shaping the future with them."

"The visit of the US president is expected to pave the way for a qualitatively new and closer relationship between the two democracies," an Indian foreign ministry statement said.

Tensions rose during the Kashmir conflict
Relations between India and the United States have warmed in recent months, especially since last year's conflict in Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

It was pressure from the Americans which led to a withdrawal of Pakistan-backed forces from Kargil, in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The recent hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Afghanistan has served to further heighten tensions, with India accusing Pakistan of being involved in the hijack.

Mr Clinton has been urging talks between the countries, particularly over the disputed region of Kashmir.

US concern over nuclear proliferation
India and the US also agreed recently, to establish a joint working group to counter terrorism.

The president, who is expected to be accompanied by his wife Hillary, is also scheduled to visit Bangladesh. It is not clear whether he will visit Pakistan, given that it is now under military rule.

Nuclear issue

The president's visit to India is likely to focus on long-standing US concerns over nuclear proliferation in the subcontinent.

Washington has long been trying to persuade Delhi to curtail its nuclear weapons and missile programmes and to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

India has insisted that it must retain a credible minimum nuclear deterrent.

The nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan is at the heart of international concern about stability in the region.

Relations between India and the United States deteriorated sharply after the Indian nuclear tests in 1998.

However, following a series of meetings between Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, there are signs of a thaw.

Most of the sanctions imposed on India after the nuclear tests have been lifted.

There has also been significant progress on trade with India lifting trade restrictions on American goods.

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