Mumbai: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denied on Saturday there was any pressure from the Obama administration on New Delhi and Islamabad to restart bilateral talks, which froze post Mumbai terror attacks last November.
Addressing the press in Mumbai, on the first day of her five-day visit to the country, Hillary said her government was supportive of the process but was not in any way involved in it.
"The US is very supportive of all efforts in the fight against terrorism. At the same time, we are not going to in any way pressurise to restart (Indo-Pak) dialogue as it is for these two sovereign governments to decide," she told reporters after attending a commemorative event for 26/11 victims at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel here.
"This is an issue to be addressed and it is for India to decide what is best for its people. We have made it clear that US respects India`s decision," she said.
The US Secretary of State’s remarks came just days after the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met in Egypt on the sidelines of the NAM summit and decided to de-link talks from action on terrorism.
Clinton however added that Pakistan had shown greater commitment to fight terrorism in the last six months.
To a query on Pakistan giving support to organisations like LeT and JuD, she spoke in favour of dismantling all terror organisations including these two outfits.
"Based on what we have seen in the last few months, there has been action not just from the government level but also from the society to fight terror (in Pakistan)," she said.
However, she said "it is too early to tell the outcome coming from Pakistan."
Asked if she believed that Islamabad needed to act against terrorist group active against India, she said: "We believe they have to be rooted out, they must be defeated, they must be dismantled. We say that clearly, we will continue to do so."
Solidarity with 26/11 victims
Hillary also expressed solidarity with the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and said she was deeply touched to meet the staff of the Taj and Oberoi hotels, which came under attack last November, and "to pay respect to the large number attacked.
"This hotel in this city suffered grievously and endured painful losses because of the extremists and violence visited on it.
"The great men and women who worked in this hotel and elsewhere in the city... (facing) senseless violence and helped save lives… they deserve our gratitude."
Americans stood in solidarity with India during the 26/11 terror strikes just as Indians stood in solidarity with Americans during the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US Secretary of State stated.
India and the US are working to defeat terrorism, Hillary told the press briefing, adding her government was committed to the fight against terror.
“We hope to create a better world for our children,” she said, adding Friday’s bombings in Indonesia were a reminder that terrorism was active.
It was a "painful reminder (that terrorism) is global, it is ruthless, it is nihilistic, and it must be stopped", she stated.
Clinton also signed a remembrance book in memory of the over 180 people killed in the November 2008 terror attacks.
Her message in the Memorial Tribute at Taj Hotel in Mumbai read:
"Americans share a solidarity with this city and nation. Both our people have experienced the senseless and searing effects of violent extremism. And both can be grateful and proud of the heroism of brave men and women whose courage saved lives and prevented greater harm on 26/11 and 9/11.
"Now it is up to all nations and people who seek peace and progress to work together. Let us rid the world of hatred and extremism that produces such nihilistic violence. Our future deserves no less."
‘New era of relationship’
The top US official also promised the dawn of a new era with India. Hillary told the press that “we are entering a promising new era with India”.
The Barack Obama administration is determined to cement bilateral ties further, Hillary said, adding "we are entering a new and even more promising relations with India. We are looking ... to broaden and deepen our relationship."
She said the strength of the India-US partnership "ultimately rests on the deep and enduring ties between the Indian and the American people".
Clinton said the problems of the 21st century demand a new mindset and a willingness to create partnership with governments but also beyond governments.
Business on agenda
Hillary, who this morning also met top Indian business leaders at the Taj, said the meeting was exciting and fruitful.
During the breakfast meeting with the business leaders, which included Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Swati Piramal, Sudha Murthy, Chanda Kochhar and Adi Godrej, Hillary said among other things the discussions focussed on the approach to meeting the economic crisis.
Later in the day, Clinton was due to visit the marketing headquarters here of Ahmedabad-based NGO Self-Employed Women`s Association (SEWA).
She will examine the textile and garment exhibits created by the SEWA members, and also discuss the progress of the Global Women`s Trade Finance Council of which she is co-chairperson along with SEWA founder Ela Bhatt.
Late in the afternoon, Clinton will go to St Xaviers` College, diagonally opposite Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), the railway station that was one of the sites of the 26/11 terror attacks.
An interaction is planned with students and teachers of the college as well as representatives of some NGOs where Bollywood actor Aamir Khan will be present.
Clinton arrived here late Friday and was immediately taken to the Taj Hotel, where she has decided to stay during her two-day sojourn in Mumbai as a mark of solidarity with the victims of terror.
Clinton will fly to New Delhi Sunday for meetings with India`s political leaders and members of the civil society.