‘Next US president must focus on ties with, India, China, Russia’

June 28th, 2008 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 28 (IANS) The next US president has been advised to pay particular attention to three key relationships - China, India and Russia - as he reintroduces America to the world to regain its trust in its power and purpose. “America’s relationships with each of these three countries will continue to be comprehensive, including areas of agreement and disagreement,” said influential Republican Senator Chuck Hagel in a “Memo to the Candidates.”

The US “cannot, however, allow these relationships to be dominated and shaped by our differences or we risk creating dynamics that can quickly get beyond our control and move down a dangerous and irreversible path,” he said at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

“We must define these relationships on our common interests,” said Hagel who briefly toyed with the idea of himself running for the presidency. He has yet to endorse either of the likely candidates, Republican John McCain or Democratic Barack Obama.

Nuclear proliferation will require special attention by President George Bush’s successor, said Hagel, asking the next president to initiate and lead on this issue with the help of India, China, Russia and the European nuclear powers.

“The world must build a new Twenty First century nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament framework…and the United States, Russia, China, India, and the European nuclear powers must lead this effort,” he said.

The 2010 ‘Review Conference’ meeting of members of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty will be a key opportunity for the US to pursue this objective, Hagel said. “But the next president cannot wait for or depend only on this opportunity.”

As America is working its way through its most pressing issues, the world is undergoing tectonic shifts, he said, noting 50 percent of economic growth over the next decade is estimated to come from emerging economies.

“Sovereign wealth funds today hold over three trillion dollars and are projected to grow by one trillion dollars per year…enhancing emerging economic powers such as Russia, China, India, Brazil, nations of the Persian Gulf and Asia,” Hagel noted.

Trade between India and China had also grown to two billion dollars a month in 2007from two billion dollars per year in 2000, he said.

Of the three key relationships, the one with Russia needs a renewed focus on issues such as the US-Russia civil nuclear cooperation agreement now before Congress, Hagel said, warning “Blocking this agreement would adversely affect all areas where we will need Russia’s cooperation such as Iran and North Korea.”

Asking the US to open a new strategic direction in US-Iran relations by seeking direct, comprehensive and unconditional talks with Tehran, Hagel said: “We must avoid backing ourselves into a military conflict with Iran. That need not happen, but it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

In the midst of “these remarkable shifts, America continues to spend billions of dollars a week stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. This, Hagel said has resulted in an undermining of US influence and interests in these regions and the world, as well as draining a tremendous amount of resources, attention and leadership away from its other national priorities.

“We cannot escape the reality that Iraq and Afghanistan will remain centres of gravity for US foreign policy,” he said. But “the most dangerous area of the world representing the most significant US national security threat is not Iraq but the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

The outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan will be decided by the people of these nations, and that outcome will be much influenced by their neighbours, Hagel said noting Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the three most critical nations in this equation.

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