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US, India agree on nuclear and defense deals

During her visit to India, Secretary of State Clinton also announced that Prime Minister Singh will make the first state visit under Obama.

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (r.) talks to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in New Delhi, India, Monday.

Saurabh Das/AP

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton paved a path to expanding relations with India during her three-day visit there, announcing accords that secure multibillion-dollar contracts for US nuclear power-plant builders and that open the door to billions of dollars in sales for American defense contractors.

But it was another announcement that, even more than the others, demonstrated the Obama administration's designation of India as a crucial partner for the United States in the 21st century. On Nov. 24, Secretary Clinton said, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be President Obama's guest in a White House state visit, making Mr. Singh the first foreign leader to make that level of visit under the new American leader.

The importance bestowed on Singh may be fitting, some regional experts say, given India's booming economy, its example as a stable multiethnic society, and its status as the world's largest democracy.

But it should not surprise the Obama administration if the attention to India and Singh causes problems with another crucial US partner in the region: Pakistan.

The state visit for Singh "says the US wants to strengthen diplomatic relations with India, a rapidly growing power and one that will be critical to addressing the big global issues Obama wants to address, so the level of visit is appropriate," says Malou Innocent, a South Asia expert at the Cato Institute in Washington.

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