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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs > Releases > Public Statements on South and Central Asian Policy > 2002

The Quality and Durability of the US-India Relationship

Robert D. Blackwill, US Ambassador to India
Kolkata, India
November 27, 2002

Released by U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, India

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honored that the Indian Chamber of Commerce has invited me here to meet with you.

I want to begin by expressing my condolences to the victims and families of the attack on the Raghunath and Rupiyowala Temples in Jammu, and to repeat what I said in a speech in New Delhi in February of this year. Then, I cited Edmund Burke's warning words that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

I went on to note "some say that this absolutely uncompromising anti-terrorist code is simplistic, that it does not take sufficiently into account historical complexities or expedient raisons d'etat. Some say that with respect to identifying terrorism, "it depends." To the contrary, I say that defeating terrorism is a matter of survival for ourselves, for our democratic values, for our religious freedom, for our children, for everything that we hold dear Socrates thought that, "the beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms." So let us please name those for what they are, who murder innocents for political motives and who seek to bring down the very pillars of our democracy -- in New York, in Washington, in Srinagar, in New Delhi" and Sunday evening and Monday morning in Jammu.

"These people are not misunderstood idealists. They are not disadvantaged dissidents. They are not religious perfectionists. And they are not freedom fighters."

"They are terrorists, and we should always be sure to call them exactly that."

I made these points in my meeting on Monday with Deputy Prime Minister Advani.

Now to the main topic of my speech. You are about to discover that I am relentlessly optimistic in my assessment of the future of US-India strategic collaboration. Relentlessly optimistic.

In this context, I am going to take my lead from Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha. At a World Economic Forum/CII dinner Monday evening in New Delhi, he said the following, "Indian foreign policy is not Pakistan centric. I have told our international interlocutors that we should spend a minimum of time on Pakistan. Let's leave Pakistan aside for a time." I intend rigorously to follow his advice today.


The Roman writer Seneca once observed, "If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favorable." Writing much later, the German philosopher Nietzsche thought that, "Man's most enduring stupidity is forgetting what he is trying to do." With this in mind, I would like all of us on this occasion -- including during our question and answer session -- to stay entirely focused on the transformation of the US-India relationship, a recent extraordinary development of encompassing strategic importance in this part of the world, and beyond.

Twenty months ago, under the 1998 US Pokhran II sanctions regime, the United States and India seemed constantly at odds. Today, President Bush has this to say about India, "The Administration sees India's potential to become one of the great democratic powers of the twenty-first century and has worked hard to transform our relationship accordingly." The President waived the 1998 sanctions, and drastically trimmed the long "Entity List" which barred Americans from doing business with certain Indian companies from over 150 Entities to less than 20. Twenty months ago, the American and Indian militaries conducted no joint operations. Today, they have completed six major training exercises. Twenty months ago, American and Indian policymakers did not address together the important issues of cooperative high technology trade, civil space activity, and civilian nuclear power. Today, all three of these subjects are under concentrated bilateral discussion, and the top of both governments is determined to make substantial progress.

President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee champion this powerful and positive bilateral interaction, reinforced by an unprecedented stream of Washington policymakers who have traveled to India. Since Sept 1, 2001, five members of the Bush Cabinet have come to India, some more than once -- Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, and Director of the Environmental Protection Agency Christie Todd Whitman. Their efforts have been underpinned by nearly 100 US official visitors to this country at the rank of Assistant Secretary of State or higher, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, and Director of the FBI Robert Mueller. Robustly engaging with their Indian counterparts, these US policymakers give attention to diplomatic collaboration, counter-terrorism, defense and military-to-military teamwork, intelligence exchange, law enforcement, development assistance, joint scientific and health projects including on HIV/AIDS, and the global environment.

Transforming US-India Relations: Geopolitics in Asia

In my view, close and cooperative relations between America and India will endure over the long run most importantly because of the convergence of their democratic values and vital national interests. Our democratic principles bind us -- a common respect for individual freedom, the rule of law, the importance of civil society, and peaceful inter-state relations. With respect to overlapping vital national interests, let me now briefly share with you my "Big Three" for the next decade and beyond. They are to promote peace and freedom in Asia, combat international terrorism, and slow the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In this context, Asia is poised to become the new strategic center of gravity in international politics. With this historically momentous shift, for the first time since the modern era began with the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the single largest concentration of international economic power will be found not in Europe - not in the Americas -- but in Asia. This return of Asia to center stage in the international system after almost five hundred years is occurring for at least three reasons:

The long peace between the major Asian powers in the last quarter of the 20th century, underpinned by the security presence of the United States in Asia, created the political conditions for economic prosperity;

The success of the liberal international economic order permitted many Asian states to increase their economic growth rates far beyond the global historical norm; and,

The presence of enlightened leadership in key Asian countries produced national strategies focused on economic development, expanded trade, and increased prosperity.

In such circumstances, peace within Asia -- a peace that helps perpetuate Asian prosperity -- remains an objective that a transformed US-India relationship will help advance. Within a fellowship of democratic nations, the United States and India would benefit from an Asian environment free from inter-state conflict --- including among the region's great powers -- open to trade and commerce, and respectful of human rights and personal freedoms. President Bush says it succinctly, "We seek a peaceful region where no power, or coalition of powers, endangers the security or freedom of other nations; where military force is not used to resolve political disputes." Or as Henry Kissinger wrote twenty years ago, "the management of a balance of power is a permanent undertaking, not an exertion that has a foreseeable end."

Achieving this objective requires the United States to particularly strengthen political, economic, and military-to-military relations with those Asian states that share our democratic values and national interests. That spells India. A strong US-India partnership contributing to the construction of a peaceful and prosperous Asia binds the resources of the world's most powerful and most populous democracies in support of freedom, political moderation, and economic and technological development.

Even as together we support peace, prosperity and liberty in this part of the world, Asia remains an area wracked by a variety of serious threats. The most pressing current danger is international terrorism. During the past decade, more familiar ethnic, nationalist, and separatist terrorist groups have been joined by new organizations with murderous ideological motivations.

These newer terrorist organizations, which attract recruits by perverting great religious traditions, embody a lethal threat to both India and the United States. Their worldview propels them to conduct deadly attacks to inflict mass, indiscriminate casualties among innocents. Both the United States and India are principal victims of this new and more dangerous kind of terrorism.

If promoting peace, prosperity and freedom in Asia, and defeating international terrorism are two important long-term objectives of a transforming US-Indian relationship, the third and final strategic challenge underlying this radical reform of our bilateral ties is to curtail the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Asia, and the means to deliver them. Today, Asia has eight nations that either have nuclear weapons capabilities, or are trying to acquire them. Nine countries have biological and chemical weapons or are attempting to obtain them. Eight nations have ballistic missiles with ranges exceeding 1,000 km.

No other part of the globe has such a concentration of WMD nations and capabilities, and these disturbing trends could worsen. As WMD programs have become more advanced and more effective as they mature, many countries of concern have become more aggressive in pursuing them.

Both India and the United States share a common vital national interest in restraining the further proliferation of WMD, and their means of delivery. Both countries face a significant risk within the next few years of confronting either terrorists or rogue states armed with such WMD capabilities.

Thus, strong US-India relations are rooted not simply in a crucial commonality of democratic governance indispensable as that is, but also in the fundamental congruence of US and Indian vital national interests. Indeed, it is difficult for me to think easily of countries other than India and the United States that currently face to the same striking degree all three of these intense challenges simultaneously -- advancing Asian stability based on democratic values; confronting daily the threat of international terror; and slowing the further proliferation of WMD. This daunting trio will be an encompassing foundation for US-India strategic cooperation for years to come.

Transforming US-India Relations: Collaborating to Advance Stability

At this point, you may ask what the Bush and Vajpayee Administrations have done in detail to advance the democratic values and geopolitical interests that so bond the United States and India. In this regard, I am entirely under the influence of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill who systematically stresses the difference between talk, and action. So here follows US-India actions.


Advancing stability in Afghanistan even as our two nations continue to work on helping Afghans establish democratic institutions and practices, India and America are committed to encouraging a stable, free and peaceful Afghanistan -- one with a representative central government that can provide physical and economic security for its people. We want an Afghanistan that has good relations with all its neighbors and with the international community -- and one that will never again export terrorism.

While we place emphasis on economic reconstruction and help build national institutions such as the Afghan National Army, the US and India agree that the hunt for the remaining Al Qaeda and Taliban elements must continue vigorously until they are brought to justice.


In the context of numerous US-India high level exchanges in recent months, the Government of India stoutly believes that Iraq should fully comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which orders Iraq to give up its Weapons of Mass Destruction. India earnestly hopes that Iraq will disarm peacefully. The Bush Administration steadfastly agrees with both these crucial propositions advanced by India.

Law Enforcement

As you know, the Portuguese Judicial Police on September 18 arrested in Lisbon Abu Salem Ansari, a notorious member of the Dawood Ibrahim narcoterrorist organization. Salem is wanted in India for his involvement in the Bombay bomb blasts in 1993 that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. In possession of his false identity documents, the Government of Portugal thereafter formally charged and detained Abu Salem. For more than 12 months leading up to this arrest, American law enforcement agencies, including the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, have closely cooperated with the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation and Interpol to track and ultimately capture Abu Salem.

After his arrest, the Government of India asked the Portuguese to deport him to India in order to face criminal charges here. Because of the prior involvement of the Bush Administration in assisting India to track down Salem and the muscular relationship between our respective law enforcement agencies, the Indian CBI requested American assistance to intercede with the Portuguese to obtain custody of Abu Salem. The top of the Bush Administration immediately concurred and acted within hours. American representatives facilitated several meetings between high-ranking CBI officials, the American Ambassador to Portugal, and Portuguese officials in Lisbon. Although Salem remains in Portuguese custody, the United States is working with CBI and the Portuguese to obtain a favorable conclusion in this matter on behalf of the Government and people of India.

Transforming US-India Relations: Developing Capacities for Operating as Partners

Defense Policy

Defense cooperation between Indian and American armed forces builds military capacities on both sides for combined operations. In May, US Air Force Airman first class Mitul Patel from 353rd Special Operations Group seized the opportunity to deploy from the American airbase in Kadena, Okinawa to Air Force Station Agra to take part in the largest-ever airborne joint exercise between the United States and India. This 23-year old Gujarat-born American crew chief was responsible for launching MC-130s to fly with the Indian Air Force. During the exercise he witnessed an elite brigade of Indian paratroopers jumping with US Special Forces in the "Balance Iroquois 02-01."

In June and July 2002, the Indian Navy Ships Sukanya and Sharda conducted escort patrols for American ships through the Malacca Straits in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Knowing what they would be up against if they had to deal with the Indian Navy, the pirates sensibly stayed away. The US Army 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment welcomed 80 soldiers from India's 50th Independent Parachute Brigade to conduct "Geronimo Thrust" in September, the first-ever live fire exercise between American and Indian paratroopers. The jawans flew to Alaska in an Indian Air Force IL-76. This marked the first time that an Indian Air Force combat aircraft has landed on US soil.

With American warships now routinely refueling in Chennai and Mumbai, we saw in September and October the largest-ever US-India naval exercise, called "Malabar." Over 1,500 American and Indian naval personnel participated during this four-day event, which featured flying operations, anti-submarine warfare exercises, and replenishment at sea.

In October 2002, again in Agra, an air transport exercise named "Cope India-02" developed a baseline for future interoperability that will lead to a fighter aircraft exchange. USAF personnel, on board Indian aircraft, observed the drop of Indian paratroopers and heavy equipment. Both air forces learned each other's formation flying techniques. The Indians marked the difference in the way the Americans drop cargo with drag-parachutes and prepare drop zones. By the end of the exercise, Indian paratroops dropped from US C-130 Hercules transporters.

In addition to all of this, in the past six months:

The Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon's key think tank, conducted its first seminar in India with counterparts in the Integrated Defense Staff. That seminar will lead to future exchanges between the defense research and analysis communities in both countries.

The US Joint Staff in the Pentagon and the Indian Integrated Defense Staff established a formal relationship in April during the first Joint Staff Talks in Washington. These talks will emphasize tri-service institutions, military planning, and tri-service doctrine.

The US and Indian Defense Intelligence Agencies instituted a formal relationship.

Indian and American Army Training and Doctrine Commands began a formal exchange on doctrinal matters that will bring our armies closer together at the operational and strategic level.

Finally, Indian experts participated in a missile defense simulation in Colorado in June, and Indian defense officials visited the United States to talk specifically about India's future involvement in US missile defense programs.

Defense Sales

While exercises, visits, and exchanges are key to building joint military capacities for future interoperability, India also naturally views defense sales as a way to gauge the potential for substantive future bilateral military cooperation. In that regard, I am please to report that the past political disconnects that hamstrung American defense sales to India are fading away.

There have been a number of breakthroughs on defense sales that have put the United States and India on the road to a stable, long-term defense supply relationship.

The Bush Administration has worked with the American Congress to amend the law requiring congressional notification of all applications for export to India of items on the US munitions list. Since October 24, 2002, only those Major Defense Equipment (MDE) items above $14 million now require congressional notification. This change puts India in a category with American Treaty Allies such as South Korea and Japan.

India is leasing several additional US fire-finding/weapon locating radars, in addition to those already contracted for purchase;

Spares for Sea King helicopters are on a fast track for delivery;

The Pentagon is expeditiously processing the Indian Army's request for significant Special Forces equipment and border sensors; and

The Bush Administration approved the sale of General Electric engines and advanced avionics for India's indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA).


With pioneering cooperation on cyberterrorism initiated by the US-India Cyberterrorism Forum inaugurated earlier this year, three of that Forum's four working groups -- Legal Cooperation and Law Enforcement, Information Infrastructure Protection, and Defense Cooperation--have met in the United States and are currently executing a yearlong joint action program.

US-India Economic Ties

You may be familiar with my frequently expressed views regarding the keys to a major increase in US-India economic activity. Here is what US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill had to say last Friday in New Delhi about India's economic future:

"In my view, the key to economic growth in India is to spread the accelerating productivity evident in India's best ventures to the broader population, as well as to the government. With steady, widespread productivity gains, especially in sectors such as agriculture that have traditionally lagged, there will be no limit to India's economic growth I am optimistic that this can happen because productivity is at its heart the practice of implementing new ideas, in which the Indian people have an illustrious record of success."

If this occurs, US-India economic interaction will no longer be the missing piece of the bilateral relationship. I am especially eager for that day to arrive.

Indian Economic Development

The United States also continues to support India's economic and social development. Despite economic growth and food self-sufficiency, extensive poverty threatens the promise of India's future. Our USAID program focuses on economic opportunity, energy and the environment, health and education. As needed, it responds to man made and natural disasters like the current drought.

In agriculture, India decided early this year to permit commercial cultivation of Bt cotton, and early results, in spite of widespread drought, are promising. Biotechnology improves farmers' livelihoods and can become a new growth industry for India, much like IT in the 1990s.

High Technology Trade

With our two Governments earlier this month creating an US-India High Technology Cooperation Group, this Group will develop a new statement of principles governing bilateral cooperation in high-technology trade that broadly advances our relationship in this area, including addressing ways to increase trade in 'dual use' goods and technologies. In 2001, less than five percent of all American exports to India (by dollar value) required a license from the US Department of Commerce. And less than one percent of that five percent - about $35 million -- were denied.

During the recent visit of Under Secretary of Commerce Kenneth Juster, the US and India also agreed to an export control technical cooperation program, a series of exchanges that will provide each side with a better understanding of the customs procedures and other internal efforts to control the export of sensitive technologies. This new initiative will enhance export control cooperation to prevent the proliferation of WMD.

Transforming US-India Relations: Developing New Habits of Cooperation

Scientific Collaboration

Scientific collaboration between the US and India is one of the most permanent features of our bilateral relationship. Thus, our transformed ties have given added impetus to the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum, which benefits from government of India support as well as a seven million dollar endowment supplied by the US Government. The Forum sponsors meetings in the US and India in diverse fields such a computer science, genomics, weather prediction and energy. My hope is to put in place, in the context of our transformed collaboration, a US-India Binational Science Foundation that would turn brilliant ideas into research partnerships.


Another recent example of the transformation of US-India relations is the successful outcome of the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or "COP-8," that recently concluded in New Delhi. Common US and Indian interests in climate change policy promoted the consensus "Delhi Declaration" produced by that Conference. Both our countries recognize the serious threat posed by Global Climate Change and we are both signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Although the United States does not support the Kyoto Protocol and India does, sustainable development is at the forefront of our respective climate policies. We both believe that it is possible to grow our economies while reducing greenhouse gas intensity through access to clean energy technologies.

Community of Democracies

The United States and India uphold democratic values around the globe. As the world's largest and oldest democracies, we both are members of the convening group of the Community of Democracies. At the CoD meeting in Seoul earlier this month, America and India celebrated shared democratic traditions, and expressed our joint commitment to enhance those values everywhere. The international community looks to India and the United States to lead the way in what Franklin Roosevelt once called democracy's "everlasting march."

Transforming the Lives of Ordinary Citizens

Fighting HIV/AIDS

Bill Gates earlier this month announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would establish a long-term HIV/AIDS program in India, with an initial commitment of $100 million. That in my opinion is only good news.

With the United States remaining the largest global donor for HIV/AIDS prevention and control, the US Government's total contribution in India over the next five-year period is roughly $120 million. Lest these seem like dry statistics, I wish you could have been with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and me when we visited a children's ward in an HIV/AIDS clinic in Hyderabad at the end of last week. We met with a dozen bright eyed and smiling boys and girls less than seven years of age who were sitting on small white chairs, enthusiastically singing songs to us in English. Ladies and gentlemen, every one of these precious children is likely to die from this terrible disease in the next few years. Their singing will stop, forever. All of us - Americans and Indians alike -- must fight the HIV/AIDS scourge shoulder to shoulder. There must be no denial. No deflections. No discrimination. No excuses.

Citizen-to-Citizen Exchanges

The Indian-American community in the United States has doubled in the past ten years, and is now about two million strong. India recently passed China to become the second largest country for legal migration to the United States, only behind our next-door neighbor Mexico. Each year more than 18,000 Indian students are issued visas to pursue their education in the United States, and there are 22% more Indians studying in the US this year than last. With the total number of Indian students now more than 66,000, this country has become the number one source of foreign students for American colleges and universities.

Since India became a software giant, almost the same number of "H1b - temporary worker visa petitions" has been approved for Indian citizens as for the rest of the world combined. During the past year, our consular sections in Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai issued more than 275,000 tourist and business visas. It is estimated that more than 400,000 Indians visit the United States for business or pleasure each year. Although there have been some delays in visa processing since 9/11, for the vast majority of applicants from India new security measures should have no effect on either their ability to qualify for a visa, or the time it takes to have it issued. Indeed, the overall visa issuance rate for India is the same today as it was before 9/11. And, there are no more long visa lines at US diplomatic facilities in India.

This informal, citizen-to-citizen exchange is not a one-way street. Although we do not have precise numbers, we estimate that more than 65,000 American citizens live and work in India. Countless Americans have close relatives throughout India. India's unique culture and history captivate many others.


President Bush vigorously pursues strategic relations with India because a powerful India will advance American democratic values and vital US national interests in the decade ahead -- to bolster Asian security and democracy; defeat international terrorism; curb the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and much, much more. But these primary objectives regarding US-India collaboration go much further in the United States than the Oval Office and the top of the Bush Administration.

To illustrate this point, I quote from a recent survey of American public opinion conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations:

"India is seen in a new light in the 2002 survey. The percentage of respondents saying the United States has a vital interest in India has increased by 29 percent point to 65% since 1998 -- the largest increase for any country ... The percentage of respondents who see it playing a greater role in the next 10 years has jumped from 26% in 1998 to 40% in 2002, the largest increase for any country..."

These statistics make manifest that the transformation of the US-India relationship is no passing fancy. Only a vision in January 2001, it is now a reality. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Bush, we have come a very long way in twenty months. We will go much further in the years ahead. As Foreign Minister Sinha stressed in New Delhi on Monday evening, US-India relations are better than at any time in a half-century. Both Governments are determined to keep it that way.

Deeply grounded in our mutual pluralist convictions and our compatible vital national interests, and in the welcoming attitudes of the American and Indian people, the United States and India will make this a more peaceful, prosperous and free world. It will not be easy. It will not be quick. But working with like-minded nations, we will accomplish this noble task -- together.

Thank you for your attention.

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