To combat terrorism, US seeks to expand ’strategic partnership’ with India (Lead)

May 15th, 2009 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 15 (IANS) As the US pushes Pakistan to shift its focus from India to dismantling Al Qaeda safe havens in its territory, top Obama administration officials have outlined plans to expand an “increasingly important strategic partnership” with India.

With a growing convergence of interests ranging from combating terrorism to getting the global economy back on track, the US will seek an expanded strategic partnership, a top US diplomat who would be Obama’s new point man for South and Central Asia told a Senate panel Thursday.

“With India we will seek an expanded strategic partnership, building on the growing convergence of our interests and values,” Robert O. Blake, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday at his confirmation hearing.

“In addition to our shared democratic values, we have common interests in combating terrorism, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, getting the global economy back on track, addressing global climate change, and reinvigorating global trade talks,” he said.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, articulated the same thought before the Senate Armed Services Committee saying US was seeking to mature its increasingly important strategic partnership with India to address common security challenges.

“India has emerged as an increasingly important strategic partner,” he said. “We seek to mature this partnership and address common security challenges globally as well as within the region.”

Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates, who also spoke at the second hearing, said unless Pakistan changes its mindset about India as its “existential threat”, and takes the fight to the militants within its own borders, success will be more difficult.

Without success on the Pakistan side of the border, efforts to rid both it and Afghanistan of the Taliban will be significantly harder, he said testifying on the fiscal 2010 defence budget request that includes $700 million to help Pakistan fight insurgents.

But traditional thought may prove hard to overcome. “For all of Pakistan’s history, India has been the existential threat,” he said.

“I think actually it was only with the Taliban’s going too far and moving their operations into Buner, just 60 miles or so from Islamabad, that for the first time they really got the attention of the Pakistani government.”

Recent actions of the Pakistani government and its army have indicated the government now understands the nature of the threat to it and is prepared to take action to deal with the threat, Gates said.

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