India a major foreign policy priority: U.S. NEW DELHI: United States Under Secretary of State William Burns said here on Wednesday that India is a major foreign policy priority for his country and New Delhi will be a crucial global partner of Washington in the 21st century. Mr. Burns held talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon on a wide range of bilateral issues, including the unsettled neighbourhood, a defence end-user agreement and India’s quest for reprocessing rights. He described his discussions as “excellent.” The U.S. official, who is slated to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan, said the interactions would enable both sides to “chart together [an] ambitious bilateral agenda for the next phase in the strategic partnership.” While the U.S. is understood to have mentioned the desirability of a dialogue with Pakistan, India underscored Dr. Singh’s assertion in Parliament on Tuesday — dialogue is unavoidable but Islamabad must show the courage and resolve to act against terrorists masterminding attacks against soft targets in India. Mr. Burns’ visit is the first by a senior official of the Barack Obama administration after the new UPA government took charge. The interaction is expected to prepare the ground for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit next month. On a four-day visit, Mr. Burns, accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, will also travel to Mumbai and interact with business leaders. The Ministry of External Affairs expects that the visit would “review and take forward the India-U.S. partnership and exchange views on matters of mutual interest.” Its U.S. counterpart, the State Department, while ruling out any move to appoint a special envoy on Kashmir, said Washington would support more dialogue between India and Pakistan. “We would support more dialogue between the two countries. I’m sure that Burns will talk about this issue among the many issues that he has on his agenda,” its spokesperson said. The two sides exchanged notes on the need for an end-user agreement for all defence purchases from the U.S. India wants a comprehensive pact for all defence purchases and is opposed to any move to undertake physical inspections. Drafts of the agreement have been exchanged and India is ready to sign the agreement, provided verbal assurances by the U.S. are not compromised in the text of the agreement. The Hindu : Front Page : India a major foreign policy priority: U.S.