Pressure is on New Delhi to open up the economy to American imports US Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to New Delhi yesterday was unusual in that the threat of war in South Asia was given only slight attention, allowing for more deliberation on bilateral ties between the United States and India. On earlier visits, Mr Powell walked into crises. His role had been that of a mediator, urging India and Pakistan to maintain the peace. This time around, millions of Indians were glued to their television sets, watching their cricket team play in Pakistan - proof of the progress the two neighbours had made since Mr Powell's visit last July, when they were not even on speaking terms. Both Mr Powell and his Indian counterpart, Yashwant Sinha, described Indo-US relations as excellent, with the former saying the two democracies enjoyed the best relations for many years. The talks focused on trade. As expected, outsourcing - US companies moving jobs to India to take advantage of lower wages - featured in the discussions. Mr Powell said outsourcing was 'a reality of the 21st century global environment'. He added, however, that he hoped there would also be opportunities for American companies to serve Indian needs. Commentators had expected a disagreement owing to growing American anger over jobs being lost to India. There was also the fear that the Americans might expect some kind of quid pro quo from India - such as opening up the economy even more to allow more American imports - in return for the advantage India currently enjoys with regard to outsourcing. The US ambassador in New Delhi, Robert Mulford, had recently described the Indian economy as 'one of the most closed economies in the world'. Last week, US trade representative Robert Zoellick said India failed to fulfil the obligations laid down by the WTO for making procurement deals transparent. India joined the World Trade Organisation in 1995. But Mr Sinha also said neither country would allow outsourcing to create any misunderstandings. Mr Powell, who was due in Pakistan today and Afghanistan later in the week, expressed his appreciation for India's help in rebuilding Afghanistan. He is expected to take up with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf the nuclear proliferation activities of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Mr Powell has said General Musharraf should investigate whether former officials helped Mr Khan sell atomic secrets to Libya, North Korea and Iran. He also wants to see 'greater action' by Pakistan on their side of the Afghan border as US forces go on an offensive in southern and eastern Afghanistan aimed at capturing Osama bin Laden.