President Clinton’s July 4 declaration that Pakistani troops should withdraw from the Indian side of the cease-fire line in Kashmir provided a strong boost to U.S.-India relations, according to Ram Jethmalani, a ranking minister in India’s cabinet.

He said during a dinner meeting of the Indian Professionals Network last week that he personally was pleased with the improved U.S.-India relations because of his devotion to democracy and his close ties with the U.S.

During the 1970s he was granted political asylum here after fleeing his country when Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency.

Mr. Jethmalani is a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has clashed for years with the Congress Party of which Mrs. Gandhi was a leader.

The Barclay Group of Affiliated Cos. (BGAC) sponsored the IPN dinner during which Mr. Jethmalani was introduced by Barclay Burks, president and CEO.  Mr. Burks announced that his company would soon be working with local partners in India developing housing there.

Mr. Jethmalani was minister for urban development until recently.  He currently is the minister for law, justice and company affairs.

He encouraged improving trade relations between the U.S. and India, saying that trade helped eliminate conflict between countries because it encouraged “an abiding interest in their prosperity.”

He also predicted that Pakistan’s actions in Kashmir would help return the BJP party in upcoming elections and he cited explanations of Pakistan’s actions as an attempt divert attention from serious political and economic problems at home.

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