Clinton seeks Indian help with Iran sanctions
HILLARY Clinton came to India on a charm offensive.
As she swept west across the country, she praised India's development and dynamism, its commitment to democracy and improving women's rights.
She met the country's leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the woman behind the throne, Sonia Gandhi, the chairwoman of the ruling United Progressive Alliance.
She professed a love for Indian culture and extolled the verse of Bengali poet Tagore to an enraptured Kolkata audience: ''I discovered him when I was in college and have been a fan ever since.''
All smiles, but the US Secretary of State came with a serious agenda, too. Her first order of business was Iranian oil sanctions.
The US has been disappointed by India's failure to curb its dependence on Iranian oil, as the US seeks worldwide action to squeeze Iran into revealing fully its nuclear ambitions.
While India has reduced marginally the amount it buys, it still gets about 9 per cent of its oil, about $US11 billion ($A10.8 billion) a year worth, from Iran. It is even circumventing banking sanctions by arranging for some sales to be made in rupees, to be spent on Indian goods, to avoid borrowing US dollars.
America believes its effort to pressure Iran into proving its nuclear program is peaceful is being undermined by India's lack of co-operation. The US may even sanction India if it determines it has not made sufficient cuts in its oil imports by the end of next month.
''We believe, at this moment in time, the principal threat is a nuclear-armed Iran,'' Mrs Clinton said. ''We need India to be part of the international effort.''
She also pushed US desire for further Indian economic reforms, in particular foreign direct investment in multi-brand retailing.
American chains such as Wal-Mart see an Indian middle class of 300 million and growing as a massive opportunity, but Indian law does not allow their presence in the country. Also on the agenda were regional water-sharing agreements and nuclear liability laws.
But while Mrs Clinton worked the ''kill 'em with kindness'' routine with India, she was blunter with its neighbour, America's ersatz ally, Pakistan, saying the country had not done enough to capture terrorists, in particular suspected Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed.
Mrs Clinton also alleged the man who inherited the leadership of al-Qaeda from the slain Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was living somewhere in the country, and said America would not be deterred from hunting down more terrorist leaders.
''There are several significant leaders still on the run; Zawahiri … is somewhere, we believe, in Pakistan. We are intent upon going after those who are trying to keep al-Qaeda operational.''
The comments infuriated Pakistan. Foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the Pakistani government had no evidence Zawahiri was in the country.