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Barack Obama praises India ties in talks with PM Singh

Indian PM Manmohan Singh speaks at the state banquet at the White House

President Barack Obama has praised the United States' relationship with India as "one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century".

Addressing Indian PM Manmohan Singh on the first state visit of his presidency, Mr Obama said Mr Singh was a "fitting leader" for the occasion.

India was "indispensable", said Mr Obama, ahead of talks with Mr Singh.

The two leaders pledged to deepen co-operation in areas from security and climate change to trade and education.

Mr Singh began his visit to the US on Monday.

He is being received with more pomp and ceremony than any previous foreign visitor to Mr Obama's White House, with a lavish state dinner for 320 people.

Divergent views

Ahead of talks with Mr Singh, Mr Obama said the US was ready to work with an increasingly influential India on a number of important issues.

"Our nations are two global leaders, driven not to dominate other nations, but to build a future of security and prosperity for all nations," he said.

WHITE HOUSE STATE DINNER
Example of a place setting for the White House state dinner, 24 November 2009
Food: Potato and egg plant salad, red lentil soup, roasted potato dumplings, green curry prawns
Entertainment: Jennifer Hudson and AR Rahman
Plates: Bought by Dwight Eisenhower, first US president to visit independent India
Flowers: Deep purple, in homage to state bird of India, the peacock
Source: AP

After the two leaders met, Mr Obama said he had accepted an invitation to visit India next year.

He also said he had agreed to work more closely on sharing information between law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

In his toast for the dinner, Mr Obama said: "Tonight under the stars, we celebrate the spirit that will sustain our partnership, the bonds of friendship between our people."

The two countries announced eight memoranda aimed at boosting co-operation in areas including education and green technology, and an annual economic and financial forum to be launched next year.

However, they still have differences on issues such as trade, climate change and Pakistan.

Mr Obama's recent trip to Beijing also raised concerns that US-China relations could be strengthened at the expense of India - a fear that observers say Mr Singh's reception at the White House was meant to allay.

Nuclear deal

Both leaders claimed progress on climate change.

Mr Obama said he had agreed with Mr Singh and Chinese leaders to reach a "strong operational agreement" on reducing global warming.

Obama: "The United States and India can strengthen the global economic recovery"

"It takes us one step closer to a successful outcome in Copenhagen," the president said, referring to a major international climate change conference to be held next month.

Mr Singh said the two leaders had "agreed on the need for a substantive and comprehensive outcome which would cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.

"We reaffirmed our intention to work to this end bilaterally and with all other countries," he said.

Mr Obama said he was committed to fully implementing a civilian nuclear deal that gives Delhi access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel in return for inspections of its civilian, but not military, nuclear facilities.

Ahead of the talks, Mr Singh had expressed his concern about the spread of Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorism to Pakistan's heartlands, and warned against any "premature talks of exit" by Western forces from Afghanistan.

He urged the Obama administration to put pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militants in the country.

Mr Obama also said there had been "some progress" on the issue, pointing to Pakistani military operations against the Taliban in the Swat valley and South Waziristan.

The operations indicate "the degree to which they are beginning to recognise that extremism, even if initially directed to the outside, can ultimately also have an adverse impact on their security internally," he said.



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