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Transforming US-India relations

Transforming US-India relations

Date: May 14, 2002

Introduction: Text of speech by Christina B Rocca, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs

Thank you for those kind words, Bob. We in Washington know how fortunate we are to have you here as American Ambassador to India. You are doing a superb job and you personally have done so much to push this bilateral relationship forward.

Distinguished members of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you for asking me to speak to this distinguished gathering. I am pleased to have this opportunity to talk to you about the transformation in relations between the United States and India. Our two democracies are working together more intensely than ever before to make the world freer, more peaceful, and more prosperous.

From the start of his Administration, President Bush has sought a global approach to US-India relations to engage India on the whole range of issues that currently confront the international community. No matter what the issue, whether it is counter-terrorism, national defense, global climate change, international commerce or preventing HIV/AIDS, the President has looked to India as a partner.

The most topical area of this partnership is in our military to military relations, and these offer an impressive illustration of the way in which India-US ties are moving from the discussion stage to active cooperation.

Today, not far from Agra, Indian paratroopers and American special operations forces are participating in their largest-ever joint army and air exercise since India's independence. Although I love Agra, and fondly remember my first visit there, I certainly do not envy our soldiers and flight crews their first visit in this heat.

The specific goal of the exercise is to conduct joint parachute training and mutual familiarization with small arms. But the larger, long-term goal is much more ambitious, and is based on strategic, diplomatic and political cooperation as well as sound economic ties. Military to military cooperation, long a subject of discussion between us, is now producing tangible progress towards this objective. Indian and US military forces are now actively developing the capability to work together effectively. Such cooperative activity between military organizations is a normal aspect of relations between friendly countries and I anticipate more such exercises to follow Agra.

Even though this joint exercise is an important milepost, it is only the latest indicator of the impressive growth in military cooperation between India and the United States. The US and Indian navies have also conducted exercises and US Navy ships have made seven port visits in the past few months.

The Defence Policy Group was revived in December and will hold its second meeting next week, on May 21. It provides the framework for planning and coordination for our military relationship. Within that framework, other bodies, such as the Executive Steering Groups for the Army, Navy and Air Force and functional working groups have discussed technological and research and development cooperation, sales and licensing issues and peacekeeping cooperation.

The defense supply relationship between Indian and America has been notable in that it involves the private sector as well as government. I was pleased to see that CII, our National Defense Industrial Association and the US India Business Council co-hosted a day of important interaction between our defense industries. Furthermore, our armed services are determining areas of mutual interest in basic research for military purposes and identification of areas for joint work in future defense system development.

In late April, we capped all of this activity with the visit of Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln Bloomfield. He was in New Delhi to begin a formal political military dialogue that, along with the visit to Washington by India's Chief of the Army Staff, will help both our countries better appreciate each other's national goals and military strategies as well as coordinate our defense trade.

The growing military relationship is one important element of the far broader process of transformation occurring between our two countries in the areas of strategic and technical cooperation. But there are others. The communiqué issued at the end of the November Summit meetings between President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee in Washington commits both countries to expanding the scope of our defense-related ties, strengthening our collaboration regarding President Bush's new strategic framework, resuming cooperation on civilian nuclear safety and in space science. The Administration remains committed to these goals, and will continue to seek creative and productive ways to implement them.

Nonproliferation remains an important item on our bilateral agenda, which we are addressing through cooperation and mutual understanding. One area in which there is great scope for cooperation is on export controls. We have already had a series of expert-level discussions and conducted training for Indian customs officials. This cooperation should expand over time, encompassing dialogue, information sharing, training and other assistance. We are confident that the Indian government shares our concerns about preventing the spread of sensitive technologies since the diffusion of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and missiles pose a serious threat to the security of both our countries.

India and the US are also working together to stimulate bilateral high technology commerce and are discussing several ideas toward that end. We have agreed to the resumption of three nuclear safety-related projects. The chairman of India's Space Research Organization has met in the US with American counterparts to expand civilian space cooperation on areas such as weather, migration and communications.

Over the past several months, the US and India have built a vibrant relationship in the war against terrorism. This began immediately after the September 11 attacks on the United States, when Prime Minister Vajpayee and other Indian leaders offered their help ungrudgingly and generously. This offer was a splendid act of solidarity with the American people at a time of urgent need.

South Asia is a key front in the global war on terrorism. And India has been a vital ally in the campaign to destroy the al-Qaida organisation, extract it from its safe havens and end its predations against the Afghan people. Dismantling the structure of extremism and terror must go hand in hand with addressing and eliminating its root causes. Achieving these goals in South Asia has involved diplomatic efforts on many fronts:

The diplomatic cooperation between India and America in pursuit of these goals has been unprecedented in our relationship. We have worked together in the UN to build support for UNSCR 1373 and the India-sponsored Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism. Our cooperation has contributed to the arrest of hundreds of terrorists around the world. The United States and India have moved in unison to strangle the financial assets of terrorists and well over 100 nations have issued blocking orders and frozen assets used to finance their attacks.

Moving from diplomatic efforts against terrorism to the more practical aspects of our struggle, I am pleased that US-India counter-terrorism cooperation is rapidly maturing. The US-India Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism predates 9/11 and continues to expand and deepen. Convening for the fourth time in January, the US and India broke new ground across the full range of counter-terrorist efforts including intelligence sharing, training, terrorism finance and money laundering, border security, and cyber-terrorism.

On broader law enforcement issues, we also are steadily increasing the number of our joint activities. We signed a new bilateral treaty last October providing for cooperation and mutual legal assistance, that makes it easier for American and Indian law enforcement agencies to tackle international crime.

As the two top centers of development of computer software in the world, India and the US are natural partners in another front of the war against terrorism - cyber terrorism. Just over two weeks ago our two countries held their first formal consultations on how to combat new emerging threats to our critical national infrastructures. The talks involved representatives of government agencies as well as academic experts and marked the start of a regular interaction on cyber security. Our professional-level dialogue, conducted, from here on, through the new US-India Cyber-Security Forum, will be continuous as we work to protect both Indian and American societies from the threats of cyber attack. We will hold the next JWG in Washington in July.

The success of the Bonn Conference that established an interim government in Afghanistan owes much to US-Indian cooperation. Working together, American and Indian negotiators convinced Afghan participants to reach agreement on the Bonn Accords. But Bonn was just the beginning. Afghanistan will require constant and intense international attention and support in order to overcome the legacy of more than 20 years of violence.

Accomplishing this task will be exceedingly difficult for the Afghans, even with outside help. India-US collaboration will play a crucial role in meeting the challenge of restoring stability in Afghanistan. India, like the United States, has been a major contributor of relief and reconstruction assistance for that blighted country.

An even greater challenge, and one I anticipate with real optimism, is to repeat our mutually supportive diplomatic efforts for all of South Asia, the adjoining regions of Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, and the world as a whole, including close cooperation within the UN system. The United States and India remain co-chairs of the Community of Democracies and will continue to work together to promote democracy throughout the world. Our collaboration can only make the world a safer and more just place.

The pace of our engagement on the economic front has also picked up. Since January, we've seen visits by senior USG officials from the Departments of Treasury, Energy and Commerce and from the Environmental Protection Agency. During the same period, Ministers Sinha and Mahajan and other cabinet rank officers of the Indian Government have been in the United States for productive discussions with their counterparts. We look forward to enhancing these kinds of interactions under the framework of the US-India Economic Dialogue, which the President and Prime Minister reinvigorated last November. With the active participation of our respective private sectors, the Economic Dialogue can and will play an important role in helping us realize the enormous potential of our economic relationship.

Our partnership extends from the macro level of politics, economics and diplomacy to the community level where HIV/AIDS has become a growing problem. Here, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) supports two major bilateral projects and is planning to incorporate HIV prevention into other activities.

It is clear that our two countries have embarked on a new and more productive course in bilateral relations. This is a change that supports the interests of us both. The United States is committed to move rapidly and decisively toward even greater cooperation in this partnership of equals. I believe Indians are also excited about the transformation of our relationship as it demonstrates your country's assumption of ever-greater responsibilities as a major power in the region and in the global arena.

The US-India relationship is entering an exciting phase, a period of transformation which, if properly managed, can bring great benefits to both our countries. This will require constant attention and hard work. I think India and the United States have demonstrated their willingness to do this hard work, to overcome difficulties and keep our eyes on the benefits for us both. I am confident that together we will succeed.

Thank you.

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