‘Heady Times’ For In­dia And the U.S.

The Washington Post Sunday - - Letters To The Editor - Ni­cholas Burns

While Iraq and Iran have dom­i­nated re­cent head­lines, the United States and In­dia have qui­etly forged the strong­est re­la­tion­ship the two coun­tries have en­joyed since In­dia’s in­de­pen­dence in 1947. For most of the past 60 years, the Cold War and vastly dif­fer­ing ide­o­log­i­cal and gov­ern­ing philoso­phies kept us, at best, fit­ful part­ners. That all be­gan to change a decade ago, when Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s ef­forts led to the first great open­ing in our re­la­tions. In 2001 Pres­i­dent Bush launched an even more am­bi­tious drive, cul­mi­nat­ing in im­pres­sive agree­ments re­gard­ing civil­ian nu­clear power, trade, science and agri­cul­ture with In­dia’s re­formist prime min­is­ter, Man­mo­han Singh.

The pace of progress be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Delhi has been so rapid, and the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits to Amer­i­can in­ter­ests so sub­stan­tial, that I be­lieve within a gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­cans may view In­dia as one of our two or three most im­por­tant strate­gic part­ners.

The sym­bolic and pub­lic cen­ter­piece of our new part­ner­ship, of course, has been the nu­clear agree­ment, which Congress ap­proved by an over­whelm­ing bi­par­ti­san ma­jor­ity in De­cem­ber. When fully im­ple­mented in 2008, this ini­tia­tive will per­mit Amer­i­can and in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies to be­gin peace­ful civil­ian nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion with In­dia for the first time in more than a gen­er­a­tion. This would bring In­dia out of its self-im­posed iso­la­tion and into the in­ter­na­tional non­pro­lif­er­a­tion main­stream. It would help al­le­vi­ate the chronic power short­ages that hin­der In­dia’s eco­nomic growth, par­tic­u­larly Singh’s drive to raise the qual­ity of life of the es­ti­mated 700 mil­lion In­di­ans still liv­ing in dire poverty. It will also re­duce green­house gas emis­sions. We ex­pect Amer­i­can com­pa­nies will be among the first to in­vest in and profit from the open­ing of this gi­gan­tic en­ergy mar­ket. We hope In­dia will move quickly to help us com­plete a fi­nal bi­lat­eral agree­ment to make this a re­al­ity.

While the civil­ian nu­clear ini­tia­tive has gar­nered the most at­ten­tion, the U.S. and In­dian gov­ern­ments have launched joint ven­tures in agri­cul­ture, space ex­plo­ration, global pol­lu­tion re­duc­tion, science and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment, and ef­forts to com­bat HIV-AIDS. And there is more we should do to­gether.

Our first pri­or­ity is to con­tinue giv­ing gov­ern­men­tal sup­port to the huge growth in busi­ness be­tween the In­dian and Amer­i­can private sec­tors. The United States has re­duced the time it takes In­dian trav­el­ers to get visas by al­most three months. Led by Prime Min­is­ter Singh, In­dia is un­der­tak­ing tough re­forms to its econ­omy to sus­tain the coun­try’s eco­nomic boom. Singh has also chal­lenged the United States to help launch a sec­ond “green revo­lu­tion” in In­dia’s vast agri­cul­tural heart­land by en­list­ing the help of Amer­ica’s great land-grant in­sti­tu­tions.

There are two more gi­ant steps In­dia and the United States must take to achieve a global part­ner­ship. First, In­dia seeks U.S. as­sis­tance in help­ing to counter the wave of ter­ror­ist bomb­ings of the past two years. The United States is ready. We are both vic­tims of ter­ror­ism and need to work harder to es­tab­lish the kind of trust re­quired for ef­fec­tive joint work. Sec­ond, we can also do much more to cre­ate a stronger mil­i­tary part­ner­ship. Af­ter the 2004 tsunami dev­as­tated parts of South­east Asia, our two mil­i­taries, along with Aus­tralia and Ja­pan, led global ef­forts to help sur­vivors. Amer­i­can com­pa­nies had their largest pres­ence ever at the re­cent Aero In­dia air show in Ban­ga­lore. We need to build on an al­ready im­pres­sive se­ries of joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises by im­prov­ing the in­ter­op­er­abil­ity of our armed forces to re­spond to global con­tin­gen­cies. We also aim to com­plete a se­ries of de­fense sales that meet In­dia’s needs and com­ple­ment our over­all de­fense re­la­tion­ship.

Fi­nally, I am con­fi­dent the United States and In­dia can work closely to­gether on the key for­eign pol­icy chal­lenges in South Asia. In­dian in­vest­ment and in­fra­struc­ture as­sis­tance is help­ing Afghanistan in its hour of need. We are work­ing with Delhi to en­cour­age en­ergy-rich Cen­tral Asian states such as Kaza­khstan and Turk­menistan to es­tab­lish oil and gas trade with Afghanistan, Pak­istan and In­dia, thereby re­duc­ing the lure of long-term con­tracts with Iran. We are work­ing to­gether to try to stop the in­creas­ingly bloody civil war in Sri Lanka and to bring sta­bil­ity and, I hope, real democ­racy to Nepal and Bangladesh.

In some ways, our am­bi­tious gov­ern­ment agenda is merely play­ing catch-up to the re­cent ex­plo­sion in busi­ness and cul­tural ties be­tween In­di­ans and Amer­i­cans. There are more than 2 mil­lion peo­ple of In­dian ori­gin — many of them now Amer­i­can cit­i­zens — in the United States, mak­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tions in academia, health care, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and busi­ness. It is one of the best ed­u­cated and suc­cess­ful im­mi­grant groups in our re­cent his­tory. There are also 80,000 In­dian stu­dents study­ing here, more than from any other coun­try.

Th­ese are heady times for In­dia and the United States. Ev­ery day I see signs of the strate­gic ben­e­fits our ef­forts can bring our two coun­tries. With hard work and vi­sion, we can re­al­ize the po­ten­tial of a key 21st-cen­tury part­ner­ship of two great democ­ra­cies.

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