Kerry in India for Strategic Talks

Kerry in India for Strategic Talks

NEW DELHI (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in India for strategic and commercial talks being held against the backdrop of rising tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir, long a flashpoint between India and rival Pakistan.

Kerry, along with U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, is leading the American delegation to the second meeting of the U.S.-India strategic dialogue, which seeks to improve security and economic development ties between the nations.

Tuesday's talks come amid some of the largest protests in Kashmir against Indian rule in recent years. At least 68 civilians have been killed and thousands injured in the Himalayan region, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotguns at rock-throwing protesters since early July. Two policemen have been killed and hundreds of government forces have been injured in the clashes.

On Monday, Indian authorities lifted a curfew imposed in most parts of India-controlled Kashmir as part of a 52-day security lockdown. But they re-imposed the curfew in the region's main city after anti-India protests and clashes erupted in several neighborhoods.

More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.

The U.S. has consistently urged dialogue between India and Pakistan on the dispute and, in a meeting with Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval, Kerry reiterated that position, according to U.S. officials, who noted that on Monday India's defense minister met with Pentagon chief Ash Carter in Washington.

Other issues on the agenda include cooperation in Afghanistan, efforts to combat terrorism, cybersecurity as well as India's desire to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and pursue a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Climate change and clean energy are also to be discussed.

(KA)