N-deal would take India-US ties to next level: Rice

August 30th, 2008 - 10:04 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 30 (IANS) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the conclusion of the US-India civil nuclear deal would be a “milestone” in bilateral ties that will “push” the relationship to the “next level”.The deal would only push the US-Indian relationship to the next level and her successors would do more work on that, she said in an interview with Forbes magazine, likening diplomatic process to gardening, something one is tending to all the time, but never leaves it completely finished.

“… But I think it’s important to have certain milestones that you’re trying to achieve, to have certain work that you’re trying to finish, even if you know that the conclusion of, for instance, the US-India civil nuclear deal would not be the end of moving the US-Indian relationship forward,” Rice said.

“We’ll do more work on that, the next Secretary of State will, and so will the next Secretary of State,” she said according to the transcript of the interview released by the State Department Friday.

“But if you can conclude something like that …you’ve pushed it to the next level. And I’m always looking for the work that you can conclude to push something to the next level, push your relationship to the next level,” Rice said.

Describing the relationship with India as “one of those,” she said: “We set out at the beginning to try and improve, extend, broaden and deepen the US-India relationship because very early on the President (George W. Bush) and I both saw it as an emerging, big democracy and the relationship’s never been very close.”

“And you can do all of the kind of small things, you know - not small things, but expected, new agricultural cooperation, new cooperation between businesses,” Rice said recalling how the Bush administration started reaching out to New Delhi.

“But the 800-pound elephant in the room was could we overcome the nuclear cooperation barrier that has existed ever since the NPT (nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) — India not signing the NPT and India being a nuclear weapons state,” she said.

“And so setting out to do that then puts the relationship on a completely different level,” she said. “And when people talk about landmark agreements, I think that’s really what they’re talking about.”

Asked when she came into the India negotiations, did she see that as a continuation of a stepwise function or was she drafting things for the first time on paper,” Rice said: “Well, we didn’t start right away.”

“We really started pursuing the India Civil Nuclear deal in 2005, so there was a period of getting to know the relationship and building on what had been there before,” she said referring to the process that led to the July 18, 2005 joint statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bush.

“But I think we knew from 2001, 2002 that eventually that was going to have to be an issue. But we built to it slowly. It didn’t start with the big stepwise function,” Rice said.

Asked how did she articulate a shift in focus in the negotiating process, the top US diplomat said unless one has leverage in a strategic context “you’re not going to get anyplace in negotiating with an adversary.”

“And so you keep - you lay - you make certain that you’ve got the sticks constantly in place,” Rice said when one is dealing with an adversary, “not when you’re negotiating with Germany or even Russia, which isn’t an adversary now, or negotiating with India, even negotiating with China.”

“But when you’re dealing with a true adversarial state like Iran that is a security challenge for the United States and that is aggressively challenging American interests all over the world, you’d better do it from a position of strength. And you had better make certain that they understand that you’re in a position of strength,” she said.

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