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India defends ties with North Korea and Iran in talks with Tillerson

NEW DELHI India's foreign minister defended the country's ties with North Korea and Iran during yesterday's talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The Trump administration has launched an effort to deepen military and economic ties with India as a way to balance China's assertive posture across Asia.

At the talks with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, both sides pledged to strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation, and Mr Tillerson said the US stood ready to provide advanced military technology.

But the talks also touched on India's ties with North Korea at a time when the US has stepped up efforts to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear programme.

Mrs Swaraj told the top US diplomat that some level of diplomatic presence was necessary to keep open channels of communication. She said: "As far as the question of embassy goes, our embassy there is very small, but there is in fact an embassy."

India has also maintained ties with Iran, which is being targeted by Washington for its alleged support of extremist groups and its ballistic missile programme.

India has long sourced its oil from Iran, but in recent years, the two sides have been also collaborating on key infrastructure projects.

New Delhi is pushing hard for the development of Chabahar port on the Iranian coast as a hub for its trade links to the resource-rich countries of central Asia and Afghanistan, but the White House's tough stance has raised new concerns over the future of that project.

Mr Tillerson, however, struck a conciliatory stance, saying the Trump administration will not come in the way of countries doing legitimate business there.

He added that the US stood shoulder-to-shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism, which New Delhi says is centred ongroups operating from inside Pakistan.- REUTERS

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