US, India, an enduring partnership in uncertain times, says expert

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Washington, Nov.25 (ANI): India and the United States have forged an enduring partnership that one expert on South Asian affairs feels is positive and good in these uncertain times.

According to Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, while the Bush administration was clear in its interest in seeing India become a stronger and more influential player in the Asia-Pacific and viewed India as helpful to the overall power balance in the region, his successor, President Barack Obama's statements on Tuesday signal a similar vision for the relationship.

In welcoming Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington, Curtis said President Obama referred to India as a "rising and responsible" power and encouraged India's role in helping to shape the political and security environment in Asia.

Both leaders, she said also emphasized their common commitment to democratic values such as individual freedom, rule of law, and religious pluralism as a basis for stronger cooperation.

Moving forward, Curtis says that both Washington and New Delhi should apply the principles behind those statements when implementing their foreign policies, especially in China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.

She says that President Obama was right to acknowledge India's central role in advancing freedom, peace, and prosperity in Asia, and his administration should consult with India on a more consistent basis on the world's major challenges.

India, on the other hand, she said should place more emphasis on promoting democratic principles outside its borders, building on this internal strength as a way to increase its soft power projection.

Curtis also welcomed Prime Minister Singh's show of strong support for American power by praising the resilience of the American economy.

She also urges President Obama to acknowledge and reassure Indian concerns vis-a-vis China.

She also said that the China policy aside, the greatest challenge that Washington and New Delhi will face in growing their partnership is the ongoing Indo-Pakistani regional rivalry. She said President Obama's expression of gratitude to India for its assistance to the Afghan people was also important as it tacitly acknowledges that he does not view Afghanistan through a Pakistani lens.

The two leaders also took note of their growing counter-terrorism cooperation.

"The terrorism issue is particularly salient when it comes to efforts to improve the overall dynamics of the Indo-Pakistani relationship, a key goal of the Obama Administration. Any initiative by Obama to try to reduce tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi should include convincing Pakistan to prosecute the Mumbai attackers, arrest LeT leader Hafiz Muhammed Sayeed, and shut down the operations of this terrorist group," Curtis said.

She also said that President Obama has rightly taken advantage of an opportunity to reaffirm ties to India and recognize the U.S.-India partnership as one of the "defining partnerships of the 21st century."

"The two countries now need to follow through on their leaders' pronouncements on a range of issues including education, trade, health, energy, defense, nuclear nonproliferation, space, and the environment," she said.

More specifically, the Obama Administration should:

Support India as a stabilizer in Asia by agreeing to deepen military-to-military ties through new defense trade deals and a commitment to increasingly complex and robust military training exercises. Military ties should focus particularly on increased naval cooperation to secure sea lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean region.

Maintain commitment to carrying forward the civil nuclear deal initiated under the previous Bush Administration. Obama clarified that his support for strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and for ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty does not translate into a desire to roll back civil nuclear commitments made to India under the previous Bush regime. This was an important indication of his personal commitment to the deal, but he needs to follow through on that commitment.

Continue to acknowledge India's helpful role in promoting development and democracy in Afghanistan without supporting India gaining a strategic foothold in Afghanistan at Pakistan's expense. The idea is to support the types of positive activities India is involved with in Afghanistan and to encourage Pakistan to follow suit. Obama should express support for cooperative initiatives between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan and push the two countries to increase overall trade and economic linkages as well as military-to-military contacts and counterterrorism cooperation. (ANI)

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