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12/7/02 - U.S. - INDIA RELATIONS - 2002-12-09

Relations between the U.S. and India will “endure over the long run most importantly because of the convergence of their democratic values and vital national interests.” Those are the words of U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill. He said the U.S. and India both seek to promote peace and freedom in Asia, combat international terrorism, and slow the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

As President George W. Bush said, the U.S. “sees India’s potential to become one of the great democratic powers of the twenty-first century and has worked hard to transform [America’s] relationship with [India] accordingly.” Mr. Bush drastically reduced the list of Indian companies that U.S. firms are barred from doing business with. These sanctions were imposed in 1998 after India conducted a nuclear test. Two years ago, the American and Indian militaries weren’t conducting any joint operations. Since then, they have completed six major training exercises. High-technology trade, civil space activity, and civilian nuclear safety are all important areas where both countries are committed to working closely together.

As a region, Asia faces serious threats. Chief among these is international terrorism. Terrorist organizations like al-Qaida continue to carry out attacks that kill or wound innocent civilians. Both the U.S. and India have been targets. Most terrorist attacks in India occur in Kashmir. Last month, two Hindu temples in Jammu [JAHM-moo] were attacked with guns and grenades. The group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba [LAHSH-kahr-ay-tie-ee-BAH] has claimed responsibility. Many of them trained in Afghanistan under the Taleban regime. India strongly supports international efforts to root out remaining al-Qaida terrorists and members of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. At the same time, India is helping to rebuild Afghanistan with an extensive aid package and by promoting the revival of trade links.

Another potential threat to Asian peace is the high concentration of weapons of mass destruction in the region. Eight Asian nations, including India, either have nuclear weapons capabilities, or are trying to acquire them. Nine Asian countries have biological and chemical weapons or are attempting to obtain them. Both the U.S. and India face the potential threat of confronting either terrorists or rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction. India joined the international consensus against North Korea.

A strong U.S.-India relationship will help keep Asia peaceful and prosperous. As President Bush said, “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.”