Call for 'bold leap' in US's India ties

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by Rahul92, Oct 22, 2010.

  1. Rahul92

    Rahul92 Senior Member Senior Member

    Sep 4, 2010
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    WASHINGTON - On the eve of United States President Barack Obama's maiden voyage to India early next month, an influential think-tank is calling for "a bold leap forward" in ties between the two nations.

    In a report released here Wednesday, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) expressed concerns that the momentum in building such ties that was gained during the two previous US administrations "has stalled" and that both countries need to take concrete steps to restore it.

    The 12-page report, entitled "Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of US-India Relations," calls on Washington, among other things, to publicly support India's permanent membership in an enlarged United Nations Security Council; seek a broad expansion of bilateral trade and investment; "greatly expand the security relationship and boost defense trade"; and liberalize US export controls on goods that have both a civil and military application.

    For its part, India should, among other steps, act quickly to fully implement its Civil Nuclear Agreement with the US; raise its limits on foreign investment; reduce barriers to defense and other forms of trade; enhance its rules for protecting intellectual property; and cooperate more closely with the US in international fora, according to the CNAS task force that approved the report.

    The report, which was released amid a three-day "strategic dialogue" here between officials of the US and India's traditional rival, Pakistan, also comes two weeks before Obama's scheduled visit to India, part of an Asian tour that will also take him to Indonesia; South Korea, where both he and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected to play key roles at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit; and Japan, which is hosting the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

    This week's US-Pakistan meeting is expected to result in Washington's agreement to provide a five-year, more than US$2 billion aid package for Islamabad, in addition to the nearly $2 billion it is supplying the Pakistani army this year.

    India has historically opposed US military assistance and sales to its western neighbor, fearing that the aid will eventually be directed against it. The two nuclear-armed countries fought three wars between 1947 and 1971 and another limited conflict in the Kargil district in disputed Kashmir in 1999.

    Washington is thus seeking assurances from Islamabad that all of the current and forthcoming assistance will be used only for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations against Islamist militants, particularly along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. Washington and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have been engaged in a nine-year conflict there against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their affiliates.

    The new aid package appears designed primarily to induce greater cooperation from Pakistan in denying safe haven and other forms of support to the militants, some of whom are also closely associated with anti-Indian groups; among them, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which two years ago carried out a commando-style attack on high-profile targets in Mumbai in which nearly 200 people were killed.

    While the CNAS report does not focus on Pakistan, it stresses that the US and India should "deepen their dialogue" on both Pakistan and Afghanistan and expand their anti-terrorist cooperation pursuant to a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in July.

    The Obama White House has sought to make India a major diplomatic priority, but its preoccupation with events in Afghanistan and Pakistan has largely overshadowed those efforts.

    Last November, Manmohan was the guest of honor at Obama's first state dinner since his inauguration 11 months before and, in November, the president participated personally in the opening session of the two countries' first "strategic dialogue" held at the State Department last June.

    "Never has there been a moment when India and America mattered more to one another, and never has there been a moment when partnership with India and America mattered more to the rest of the globe," said then-under secretary of state William Burns at the time.

    The CNAS report, however, suggests that progress in forging that partnership is, in its words, "falling short of its promise".

    The non-partisan task force that produced the report was co-chaired by former deputy defense secretary Richard Armitage and former under secretary of state under both George W Bush and Obama, Nicholas Burns.

    Task force members included leading experts and former South Asia policymakers, including Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution; former assistant secretaries of state for South Asian affairs Karl Inderfurth and Teresita Schaffer; former US ambassador to New Delhi Frank Wisner, and Ashley Tellis, a former Bush adviser now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    CNAS, which, along with the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress, has played a key role in staffing the upper foreign policy ranks in the Obama administration, also included a number of its experts on the task force.

    The report asserts that India's "rise to global power is in America's interest", and that Washington should not only seek a closer relationship with Delhi, "but actively assist its further emergence as a great power".

    Both countries have a "vital interest" in maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia, according to the report.

    "Neither seeks containment of China, but the likelihood of a peaceful Chinese rise increases if it ascends in a region where the great democratic powers are also strong," it said, adding that India will also "play an increasingly vital role in addressing virtually all major global challenges", from international trade and finance, to energy and climate change, to nuclear non-proliferation and the exploration of space.

    The report put special emphasis on what it called "an expanded US-India military partnership" and expressed disappointment that "bureaucratic inertia in both countries" has hampered growth in that the defense sector.

    During his November 5-9 visit, Obama hopes to oversee agreements totaling between $10 and $12 billion in US sales to India, most of it in the form of advanced weapons, particularly in military-transport aircraft, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. The CNAS report also noted the ongoing competition for India's next fleet of tactical fighter aircraft, which could earn US companies as much as $10 billion.

    The administration also hopes to shore up a landmark 2008 deal that would enable US companies to build nuclear power plants in India. Those companies, however, have been discouraged by the Indian parliament's failure to enact legislation that would exempt manufacturers from liability for accidents.

    That failure, warned the report, "will undermine the most important agreement the two countries have negotiated and pose grave risks for the relationship at the political level."

    Jim Lobe's blog on US foreign policy can be read at

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