March 2002 News

Concert of Democracies

12 march 2002
The Times of India
ROBERT D BLACKWILL

New Delhi: BEFORE a joint session of Congress last month and in front of a global television audience numbering in the billions, George W Bush praised the transformed relationship with India in his state of the union address. The president said that the US is working with India ‘‘in ways we have never before, to achieve peace and prosperity’’.President Bush’s words demonstrate the depth of his profound commitment boldly to redefine the US-India bilateral relationship in order to bring these two great democracies into enduring strategic collaboration, based on common democratic values and overlapping vital and important national interests. The president made the same points to me when I met with him in the Oval Office a little over a month ago. And, as you know, prime minister Vajpayee had earlier come to a similar conclusion with his invention of the phrase ‘‘natural allies’’, to describe the relationship between India and the United States. As president Bush has said, those who harbor terrorists will share their fate. Every nation has to decide if it is with us — the community of civilised countries, including India and America, that unambiguously condemns terror as a political, ideological or religious instrument — or with the terrorists, the evil ones whose inhuman acts separate them from the society of homo sapiens. In this global war against terrorism, there can be no middle ground. No moral relativism. No policy equivocation. No excuses. More than 50 American policy-makers at the assistant secretary level and above have visited India since I arrived at the end of July last year while many members of the prime minister’s senior national security team have travelled to the United States during the same time frame. What have these leaders been talking about with one another? Alfred North Whitehead once observed that, ‘‘We think in generalities, but we live in detail’’. The US-India relationship is now living in exquisite detail. Bilateral diplomatic exchanges with India are among the most frequent and intense that the United States conducts with any country in the world, allied or otherwise. We have worked together in the UN to pass UNSCR 1373 and to promote the India-sponsored comprehensive convention against international terrorism. These efforts have led to the arrest of hundreds of individuals around the world with possible ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks. With the United States and India moving in unison to strangle the financial assets of terrorists, more than 112 nations have issued blocking orders and frozen assets used to finance terrorism. And the US government has designated Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba as foreign terrorist organisations. At the end of last year, India and the United States led the way in assisting the completion of the Bonn conference that established the interim government in Afghanistan. We all know that the tragedy of Afghanistan will not be reversed overnight. At best, it will take many, many years for the people of that blighted land to lead something resembling normal lives. Accomplishing this tremendous task regarding Afghanistan will be exceedingly difficult. Without the closest possible US-India collaboration, it may be impossible. That brings me to the US-India cyber terrorism initiative, which flows out of the November 9 summit in Washington. We will exchange information about the cyber threat environment, our histories and methods for dealing with the problem, and our experiences in combating this menace. We will discuss legal cooperation, joint training, regularised cyber attack and assessment notification. Taking its cue from prime minister Vajpayee’s and president Bush’s commitment to recast the character of our bilateral relations, the US-India defense policy group has approved broad-based collaboration that includes military-to-military ties and a significant defense supply relationship. In addition to discussions about terrorism, and plans for greater joint analysis and action to combat this danger, we reviewed three subjects of great importance to the future security of both our countries. President Bush’s new strategic framework and its fresh vision of the role of nuclear weapons in the international system; energy security and joint operations to protect the sea lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean and the challenges of maintaining strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region over the long-term. The program of military-to-military cooperation that has been agreed upon by the service steering groups since the DPG confirms the vitalisation of US-Indian defense ties. We have had the largest number of general officer visits to India ever. The US navy has already conducted five port calls and a search and rescue exercise in the past 15 months. Our two navies will undertake a variety of activities at least once a month over the next two years. Our two armies have already agreed to expand participation in national, bilateral and multinational exercises. The air force agenda, which has just been settled in Hawaii, projects a similarly ambitious schedule of bilateral cooperation focused on joint training and exercises, increased technical cooperation in support of combined operations, and professional and subject matter exchanges. Our defence supply relationship is also making substantial progress. To date, the US government has received applications for 81 items on the munitions list. None so far have been denied. Of the 81 applications under consideration, 20 have already been approved by the inter-agency process and are in various stages of notification to Congress. These include applications for components for the Agrani satellite launch, helicopter spare parts, micro detonators, specialised electric motors, and the AN/TPQ-37 artillery locating radar. A variety of other high priority items including aircraft engines, undersea remotely operating vehicles, submarine combat systems, multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft, satellite launch vehicle technical data, and equipment for combating terrorism are in various stages of congressional clearance. This has been a remarkable success story regarding our bilateral relationship over the past year, led by prime minister Vajpayee and president Bush. Of course, this story is not over. How could it be so in such a short time, especially given the way India, with its ancient civilisation and long-term perspective, measures such things. There will be occasional policy differences along the road, as there inevitably are between America and its closest allies. That is to be entirely expected, and to be adroitly managed. But we have made a great beginning. Our challenge is to maintain this extraordinary pace and substance in our bilateral ties, to continue to understand that the United States and India can truly be at home in the world, together.

 

Return to the Archives 2002 Index Page

Return to Home Page