US attaches special significance to India ties: Obama to Manmohan

On Board Air India One, Nov 20 (IANS) US President Barack Obama said he attaches "special significance" to relations with India during his brief "very friendly and frank" talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Phnom Penh Tuesday.

During their "pull aside" meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia summit in the Cambodian capital, Manmohan Singh congratulated Obama on his re−election. They shook hands warmly, and met for about four−five minutes, according to official sources.

"India is a big part of our plans," Obama told Manmohan, said the sources.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, who was present at the meeting along with National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon told reporters on board the aircraft returning from Phnom Penh that "Presiden Obama has great admiration and respect for the prime minister. He also attaches special significance to relations with India".

The two also had "very friendly and frank exchange of views" over the dinner Monday night.

Obama and Singh had met around four times − during the dinner Monday night, at the East Asia summit Tuesday and the Retreat for East Asian leaders later, and a brief face to face meeting, said official sources.

Menon met his counterpart Tom Donilon for about 90 minutes earlier in the day. The two discussed bilateral and regional issues, but no details were given.

Obama had flown in to Cambodia from Thailand and Myanmar. His visit to Myanmar and Cambodia are a first for any US president and marks the growing importance the US attaches to engaging with countries in the Asia Pacific.