US, India renew efforts to boost bilateral ties

Associated Press
View photos
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, right, gestures while speaking with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during a meeting in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Biden arrived in India on Monday on a trip that will focus on boosting trade and regional security ties and strengthening a strategic partnership that has languished in recent years. (AP Photo/Pool, Harish Tyagi)

NEW DELHI (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks in the Indian capital Tuesday as part of a renewed effort to strengthen ties between the two countries.

The meeting came just weeks after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came to India to lead a strategic dialogue between the nations. The pair of high-profile meetings signal increasing efforts to upgrade bilateral relations as the U.S. lays out its plans to rebalance its foreign policy toward the Asia-Pacific.

Biden's trip will also lay the groundwork for a summit meeting between Singh and President Barack Obama in Washington in September.

Indian officials said the two discussed a raft of issues, including ways to boost trade and ease bottlenecks preventing American companies from investing in the Indian market.

They also talked about the hurdles in implementing a landmark civil nuclear agreement that the countries ratified in 2008.

India has said foreign nuclear companies operating in the country should assume nearly unlimited liability for accidents, a stringent condition that makes it all but impossible for foreign nuclear firms to set up nuclear power plants in India.

Regional security, especially in war-torn Afghanistan, and New Delhi's concerns about the possibility of the Taliban returning to power in Kabul post-2014, were also discussed during the 75-minute meeting.

The U.S. increasingly views India as a partner in developing Afghanistan, where New Delhi has provided $2 billion in assistance. Washington wants India to play a more active role in training Afghan security forces as the U.S. and its NATO allies withdraw combat forces by 2014.

Later Tuesday, Biden will attend a banquet in his honor hosted by his Indian counterpart before leaving for Mumbai, India's financial hub.