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Obama focusing on ties with India, Pak, Afghan: White House

March 31, 2010 02:38 IST

United States President Barack Obama is spending considerable time on America's relationship with India, Afghanistan and Pakistan to strengthen security in the 'important region,' the White House said on Tuesday.

"The President has spent considerable time on our relationships with India, Afghanistan and Pakistan to see security strengthened and our mutual goals worked on in an important region in the world," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at his daily news conference.

Gibbs said Obama has been a proponent of the civilian nuclear agreement with New Delhi and had supported it in the US Senate when he was a Senator.

"He is glad that in an important region of the world, we're strengthening a very close bilateral relationship," Gibbs said.

Early this week, India and the United States announced they have completed negotiations on arrangements and procedures for reprocessing of the spent nuclear fuel.

"I think it's a reflection of the deepening of our relationship. We think that the 123 agreement is in the interest of both the United States, India, and has broader impact as well," said Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P J Crowley.

Noting that the US and India have a very significant and prized relationship, the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen Tauscher, said, "We're very happy to see that this agreement is moving forward, and the reprocessing agreement is one piece of a very large 123 agreement, and we're happy to see that it's moved forward."

Starting July last year, a high-level team from both countries held several round of talks on the crucial aspect of the Indo-US 123 agreement, which gives New Delhi prior consent to reprocess.

The negotiations were held by a team of India's Department of Atomic Energy officials led by its director, strategic planning group, RB Grover, and the US delegation led by Richard Stratford, the non-proliferation and disarmament expert in State Department.

Crowley termed the development as "brilliant diplomacy" and said the State Department is satisfied that the agreement is moving forward. Terming it as a "truly great news," Ron Somers president of the US-India Business Council, said the third-ever reprocessing arrangement negotiated by the US has now been successfully concluded.

He termed India as a true partner in high technology cooperation for the long-future. The US had previously granted similar rights only to the European consortium EURATOM and Japan.

"Together, both countries can now get on with the implementation of the US-India civil nuclear accord. As partners, we will shape the economic destiny of 21st Century," said, Somers, who played a key role in the US-Indian civilian nuclear deal.

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