‘McCain to build on strategic engagement with India’

September 18th, 2008 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Pervez MusharrafWashington, Sep 18 (IANS) Republican presidential candidate John McCain supports close and enduring ties between India and the US, and building on their strategic engagement would be one of his top priorities if he gets elected, according to his campaign.Completion of the India-US civil nuclear deal would be on the top of his agenda, McCain’s foreign policy advisor Richard Fontaine said Thursday in a press call organised by Indo-Americans for McCain, a support group formed by the Indian American community.

The Republican candidate, who has backed the India n-deal from the beginning, was for its swift approval by the US Congress and had written to Democratic leaders to get it through the last mile, he added.

Asked if McCain considered fuel supply guarantee as mentioned in the implementing 123 agreement “legally binding” or only as “political commitments” as stated by President George W. Bush in his message to Congress, Fontaine said: “We’ll have to check, can’t say.”

McCain would also like to build the two countries’ security relations, focussing on fighting terrorism, besides going for free trade pacts including a bilateral investment treaty.

He would also work with India for freer global trade by reducing trade barriers.

Cooperation in energy, education, agriculture and science too would form a part of McCain’s India policy, Fontaine said.

The Republican nominee would have the best minds of both sides work together rather than have a limited number of skilled workers come to the US under an arbitrary cap imposed by the US Congress, he said referring to H1B visas coveted by Indians.

As India has a lot of experience in promoting democracy and liberalism, Fontaine said McCain would like the two countries to work together to spread these values.

Asked about military aid to Pakistan, Fontaine said McCain was for increased civilian assistance to Pakistan to develop its tribal region, while providing military assistance focusing on training.

“We think the US and India both have a strong and compelling interest in promoting civilian rule in Pakistan,” Fontaine said.

Asked about McCain’s past support to former president Pervez Musharraf, he said: “The Pakistani government has been a crucial partner in going after terrorists” in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. “But it’s in all our interest to see the elected government succeeds.”

In reply to a question about what the McCain campaign was doing to reach out to the Indian community, deputy campaign manager Christian Ferry said besides opening a forum for Indian-Americans, well organised efforts were being made to get them to vote.

Asked about the impression that the Republican party was a white dominated organisation as shown at its nominating convention, he said McCain was trying to expand diversity in the party by making efforts to build new coalitions of ethnic groups, not just through the campaign but hopefully on a permanent basis.

Asked if there would be more Indian American appointments under McCain, Ferry said his would be “the most capable cabinet that only reflects opinions and diversity in America”.

Deven Verma, chair of Indo-Americans for McCain and partner at Edgewood Ventures, said he backed the Republican nominee because he offered a better platform for New Delhi and Indian Americans on issues like tax and energy policies besides consistent support for the Indian nuclear deal.

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