Maximise India-US partnership, Congressional panel told

February 27th, 2009 - 10:26 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 27 (IANS) Leading South Asia experts and lawmakers alike have suggested that building on the India-US civil nuclear deal the two nations should maximise their strategic partnership to enhance the security of both Indian and American citizens.

“Following final approval of the landmark US-India civilian nuclear agreement, we certainly do not want to lose momentum in strengthening our newfound ties,” Karl F. Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs under President Bill Clinton told a Congressional panel Thursday.

“Dream big should be the touchstone for the next stage in US-India relations, not only for the two governments, but also for the equally powerful expansion of private sectors and people-to-people ties that are taking place” he said at a hearing on “Building a Strategic Partnership: US-India Relations in the Wake of Mumbai”.

Now a professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, he suggested a seven-point engagement agenda:

Strengthen strategic ties; address regional challenges; realise economic potential; pursue an expanded nuclear agenda; support India’s United Nations bid; promote a cooperative triangle (including China) and “dream big.”

Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank told the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia that stronger US-India anti-terrorism cooperation will strengthen their overall strategic partnership and improve the safety and security of both Indian and American citizens.

Maximizing the potential of the US-India strategic partnership should be a major focus of the Obama Administration, she said noting “the new Administration has a firm basis on which to strengthen and expand the US-India partnership for a safer and more prosperous Asia.”

Curtis said as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recognised, the India-US civil nuclear agreement “unlocks a new and far broader world of potential for our strategic partnership in the 21st century, not just on nuclear cooperation but on every area of national endeavour.”

The panel’s Democratic chairman Gary L. Ackerman said the first step in US response to the Mumbai attack should be to increase counter-terrorism cooperation between the US and India both in frequency of consultation and depth of content.

He suggested that the United States and India establish a senior-level strategic dialogue similar to the Strobe Talbot- Jaswant Singh dialogue “to lay the foundation for the ’strategic partnership’ that everyone professes to want, but has thus far proved elusive.”

Both nations needed to get to work “on the substance of which true strategic partnerships are made,” he said. “The truth is that we’re not there yet. And there’s not a moment to lose.”

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